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Friday, July 3, 2015

National Broom Company and A Really Unique Bojon Woman

My mom is in the back row of this photo. She is holding up a broom on the right hand side as you look at the photo (standing in front of the door). I know a couple of the ladies who were mom's cousin. One I know was Rose Kralj. I believe. If anyone has any information about the other gals in this photo or the National Broom Co.please tell me. I have the names of all the ladies on my copy of this photo and right now I wish I knew where I put it!  The information I have about this company is they were located in a building built in 1917  on Union Avenue which is now part of the historic district of my hometown. The National Broom Company used this building in the 1960's.  In the 1970's the building was used by Sportsmart. The building stood vacant in the 1980's through 2010. This building underwent a major renovation in 2012 and it is located on the Historic Riverwalk. The building is called the Waterford Building. If you live in the Pueblo area you probably know much more about the new renovated building than I do. I am assuming the National Broom Company sponsored these ladies in baseball. I do not remember my mother speaking of working at this company . My mother did clean the home of the Thatcher family when she was a young woman and many of the young women of her day worked in the laundry. If anyone has any information please about this please let me know.
As Bojon's we really believe our heritage and our people are really something special! This photo is Mary Babnik Brown. Mary was an American born Slovenian born to Frank Wolf Babnik and Mary Babnik  who immigrated to the USA from Slovenia. Mary's legal name was Mitzi, a Slovene name, but  she Americanized it to Mary. She was born November 22, 1907 in Pueblo, Colorado.  She spent her early childhood in Bessemer and the Grove in Pueblo, Colorado.  Mary had three siblings and in 1920 her father abandoned the family. She left school at the age of 12 to help support her family. She did part time domestic work for $5 a week  and by lying about her age when she was 13 she found permanent work for 75 cents an hour at the National Broom Company. Mary worked there for 42 years. She became famous for donating her hair to the war effort! Mary's 34 inch long blonde hair had never been chemically treated or heated with curling irons, and therefore proved resilient enough to use as cross hairs in  Norden bomb sights for bomber aircraft which have to withstand a wide range of temperatures and humidity. She was never compensated for her donation, although she was offered war savings stamps. She said she felt she had done her patriotic duty when she turned them down. She was told at the time of her donation that the hair was needed for meteorological instruments, and had no idea how it was actually used until 1987. President Ronald Reagan wrote to her that year on her 80th birthday to thank her and in 1991 she received a special achievement award from the Colorado Aviation Society during a ceremony at the Air force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Mary was a well known local dancer. I told you these Bojon people are talented and super special! She took up dancing as a hobby and when she was 19 she won she won her first dance contest. She danced at the Arcadia Ballroom (it is now razed) on 5th Street in downtown Pueblo.  She taught G.I.'s how to dance and earned the nickname "Arcadia Mary" because she danced at the Ballroom so much! She had a saying, "My family is my first love but I love dancing second.".
In 1944 she was the first woman to donate her hair used for military aircraft bombsights.  She saw an advertisement in the local newspaper in 1943 saying that the government was looking for women to donate hair for the war effort. The ad did not specify what the hair would be used for only that it had to be blonde and at least 22 inches long. It could not be treated with chemicals or hot irons. The operation was a clandestine one even though they found the hair through a newspaper advertisement.
Mary's hair was her prized possession and she cried for two months after cutting it. She washed it twice a week with pure soap and combed it twice a day. It reached down to her knees. She wore it in a braid wrapped around her head and was known as the lady with the crown. She married Carl Brown after 1944 and became Mrs. Mary Mitzi Babnik Brown. In 1947 she became the vice president of  the State Federation of Labor and was the first women to hold that position. She was an active Democrat and was the president and vice president of the Slovenian National Benefit Society,  She spent her last years living in the 300 block of Spring Street in the Grove. Paul Harvey told her story on his national broadcast radio show called The Rest of the Story on November 19, 1990. Mary passed away on April 14, 1991. I never dreamed when I was given this photo of our mom by my brother Bill that such a story was behind the National Broom Company! Makes me very proud to be a Bojon and share this rich history with all of you!
How is that for the Rest of the Story....? Bojon style! Until tomorrow


Terra said...

This is a fascinating story. That beautiful hair probably saved lives of our soldiers and pilots as it helped them win with use in the planes.

Beatrice Euphemie said...

Such a wonderful and interesting story! How nice that she was finally honored by the president for sacrificing her hair for such an important cause.

Betsy Adams said...

Very interesting story, Anne... I love history---and getting things like this written down will help future generations (which working on Genealogy)... Great story about Mary and her hair... Love it... Thanks for sharing.


Intense Guy said...

I suspect you (if you don't already) should belong to the Pueblo County Historical Society!

The ladies' baseball team roster might be available there - I know they have a photo of the 1935 team... which of course is long before this one!

Intense Guy said...



Mary said...

Awesome story, Anne!