29 September 2017

Published September 27, 2017 by rochellewisoff

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The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit. 

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

With its battered tin roof it looks like an old warehouse that has been abandoned. The windows aren’t broken and the concrete walls look rough. What story does this old shell of a building with its brick chimney tell you? Can you tell the rest of us in 100 words? 

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100


            “Jinny was barely growed. 1914-1934” Her lower lip quivered as she traced the dates on the headstone with a frail finger. “She earned $17.50 a week painting them glow-in-the-dark clock numbers.”

            Wind gusting across St. Columbus Cemetery chilled me. “Let’s get you home, Mrs. Abbot.”

            “Not yet. I want you to see.” She seethed and brandished a Geiger counter probe over her sister’s grave. “Jinny took sick. Strange. Her jaws done crumbled. Died like the other girls at her factory. The doctors made lame excuses. Damned liars is what they was.” The machine sputtered. “That sound like Diphtheria to you?”




It’s a long read, but if you want to know more of the story 


116 comments on “29 September 2017

  • What a heartbreaking tale! The fact that it is not fiction makes it all the more painful. Guess capitalistic greed has been consuming innocent lives for far too long. One of your best ones yet, Rochelle. Cheers, Varad

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Varad,

      While the characters in the story are fictitious, the events are painfully true. I found so much information it was hard to distill it down to 100 words. Mrs. Abbott is heavily based on a woman who lived well into her 100’s because and attributes it to her quitting her job at the Radium Dial. She didn’t like the taste of the paint. Thank you very much for such a generous comment.



      Liked by 2 people

  • So many lives trampled under the harsh, but mesmerising march of capitalism. It is happening even now, in the sweat shops around the world, child labour in Africa mining minerals for our smart phones. Great story Rochelle! Powerful voice! I could feel her outrage and deep sadness.


  • Another little piece of history I was completely unaware of. Thanks Rochelle, what a needless tragedy.A good reason why health and safety shouldn’t just be viewed as a tiresome joke in workplaces, as much as we deride it sometimes.

    Liked by 3 people

  • How many people have been poisoned so others can have a luxury? Great story on a grim truth about our industrial past sins. On a similar subject, there is a movie about Marie Curie at our local movie theater. I haven’t seen it so I have no idea if it goes into her death by radiation poisoning…

    Liked by 1 person

  • A brilliant short story, snapshot of the larger one. History I didn’t know, but I’ve read about the fate of lighthouse keepers of years gone by, poisoned by mercury in the light. So many health hazards no one understood until the results were glaring!

    One day hubby and I counted up the car safety features added since we were kids, dearly bought by the lives of accident victims. Reading your story makes me realize just how good most of us have it now!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Christine,

      I remember when it wasn’t unusual for children to stand up in the back of a car, hanging onto the front seats. And seat belts? Who ever heard from seat belts in a car? And if that wasn’t enough, dashboards were metal. No one wore helmets while bicycling. Yep, we took our chances.

      I’m sure the list of senseless work related deaths is longer than we realize (and still growing).

      Thank you for your generous comments and compliments.



      Liked by 1 person

      • Seems I remember reading about “The Tin Man” from The Wizard of Oz suffering later from being coated with asbestos paint? Buddy Ebson initially got the role but was allergic to the paint, lucky for him.
        Yeah, we listed collapsible steering columns, anti-lock brakes, head rests, ban on hood ornaments, padded dash, running lights and more, as well as seat belts.


    • Dear Björn,

      When all was said and done, they knew plenty. The owner of the factory refused to stop the manufacture of the radium dial clocks even though he knew women were dying from the effects. And hospitals and doctors covered their tracks by giving alternate diagnoses to those who died of radiation poisoning, calling it Syphilis or Diphtheria. Business is business. Thank you.




  • I’ll be back to read your story, Rochelle, after I get over seeing the pic. Sorry. I have this insanely strong feeling that I’ve been here, in this place, and it wasn’t pleasant. Give me a few here.


  • And to think I once owned one of those old clocks with the glowing numbers. Even after it stopped ticking I still kept it… the small glow a bit of security as I moved from ‘house’ to house, over and over.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Jelli,

      In one documentary I watched someone used a Geiger counter on a few of those old clocks. Yep…made it click and sputter. I’m sure we had those clocks, too. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. (yes, that was on purpose). 😉



      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jan,

      I was unaware of this history until a friend sent an email with a link thinking I might be interested. It will certainly make me think twice about using my mouth to bring my paint brush to a point. 😉 Thanks m’love.



    • Dear Sandra,

      The part that’s unfathomable to me is that once the problem was brought to light, the executives sought to sweep it under the rug while still more women died horrible deaths. Thank you for your kind words.




  • Dear Rochelle,
    The things you dig up…and teach us.
    Now. How in the name of hell am I supposed to come up with a story after reading that? Yours is the only one I read before I get started… eesh.
    Lotsa love and now feeling verklempt,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dale,

      I have every confidence you’ll figure something out. 😉 And it will be your usual brand of wonderful.
      In any event, thank you for your comments. This is one of those stories that ‘found’ me in an email from a friend who thought I’d find it interesting. Interesting isn’t the word, is it?

      Shalom and hugs,


      Liked by 1 person

  • Good story, Rochelle, about an extremely unfortunate time. I recently read a fictional account based on the radium girls and felt sickened by how the greedy manufacturers tried to cover it up once women became sickened. One diagnosis was syphilis because it could represent with so many symptoms, so not only was a young woman sick and dying but her reputation was ruined as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Oh, Rochelle! I’d heard of this – manufacturers coated all sorts of items with radium, such a novelty all those glow in the dark goods. And at what a cost. Tragic and so well told – a lovely voice for your poor old Mrs Abbott, still grieving for her lost sibling after so many years.
    It reminds me of ‘phossy jaw’ a similar condition often suffered by people – often women again! – working in match stick factories. It was caused by absorption of phosphorus, the chemical that made the matches light. All that suffering. Beautifully written as always

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lynn,

      Too many work related tragedies to count. I have to wonder if they manufacturers knew the risks but considered their female employees expendable or were they innocent in the beginning? It certainly didn’t make much difference to them when the facts were laid out, did it?
      Mrs. Abbott was a fictionalized version of an actual interview I watched on You Tube. Glad you liked it.
      A couple of years ago I had a bone poke through my gum requiring oral surgery. The surgeon believes it was a direct result of drugs used for osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates. Hm. I ended up having to take 4 weeks of IV antibiotics for a bone infection as well. So I found the article interesting as well as up close and personal. Thank you.



      Liked by 1 person

  • Informative and heartbreaking. I wish that we could say that capitalistic greed was a thing of the past, unfortunately it still is not. Alas, there is still so much exploitation of the lesser privileged around the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Good story, Rochelle. I don’t know if I ever told you, but my family owned a jewelry store, and before that a watchmakers and jewelers supply business. My first job in the eight grade was to fill the orders for the watchmakers. One of the things we supplied were little tins of the paint to repair watch and clock dials that had chipped off or faded, and little brushes. How many here had a Baby Ben Alarm Clock… or a Big Ben?


  • A fascinating treatment of appalling true events Rochelle. Reading it reminded me how angry I used to get as a student, reading accounts of corporate crime and the things (people in) major corporations and governments would do or omit to do to make money. The really disgusting thing is that it’s still happening across the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  • What a tragedy! The early years of the industrial revolution are filled with such stories. We have child-labor laws and OSHA because of such sloppy practices with worker welfare. I had never heard of this particular transgression before. Once again, you educate me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kat,

      Who would have thought that something so innocent as putting a tiny paintbrush in your mouth would cause such a nightmare? One interviewee said that the girls had fun with the glow in the dark paint…to the point of brushing it on their teeth to glow in a dark room. Thank you for your kind comment.



      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Alice,

      Those girls had no idea what they were dealing with, did they? On the other hand, look what passes for food these days. And how many are killing themselves with large amounts of Aspartame in diet soda? Scary.




  • Dear Krusty Kreme W(T)F,

    I believe I saw a documentary on PBS about this subject, or maybe it was one where all the young workers died in a fire. Anyway, there were no Donut Ambulances in those days. Workers were just expendable as the unemployment rate was high. Donuts were a luxury and I was not yet a bun in my mother’s oven.

    Poppin’ Fresh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Poppin’ Fresh,

      Those were half-baked times when donuts weren’t plentiful and people in the Midwest didn’t even know about the existence of bagels. Makes me weep into my lox and cream cheese. Thanks for rolling by with your much kneaded words.


      Krusty Kreme W(T)F

      Liked by 1 person

  • I thought this was a dystopian tale but as i mentioned in the background details this is a very disturbing painful reality. The atrocities that have been committed in the name of furtherance of technological developments. Very well written, Rochelle. Reading your stories can never be a bore, instead they are an infinite pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Might be the same story I read somewhere before. The women licked the tip of the paintbrush for some reason (maybe to get pointed ends). And then ingested small but deadly quantities of this substance. A woman spent the rest of her life campaigning against the corporation and to make factories safer workplaces. Well done on the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Fatima,

      It’s the same story. Unfortunately there are many chapters to it. The women were instructed to use their mouths to keep a sharp point on their brushes. No doubt the damage was cumulative. I found so much on the subject it was a challenge to distill it down to 100 words. Thank you re my story.




  • Dear Rochelle,

    I’d no idea about the radium girls. What an incredibly tragic story.

    I read the whole article and was horrified by the descriptions of the girls’ tumours, and their jaws dropping off. How anybody could deny such evidence and do such monumental cover-ups?

    You know, I think it’s best not to trust anybody who makes a big thing of telling you that something is safe. For instance, cigarettes were advertised as especially good for your health at one time.

    What a world D:

    I’m having a week off FF, but didn’t want to miss your story.

    All best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Sarah,

      There are so many instances where something was considered safe only to find they were deadly…ie Coca Cola that got its name from Cocaine. While it no longer has that, Diet Coke is full of Aspartame which is the sweet way to destroy brain cells. We never really learn, do we?

      Thank you for taking an ‘off’ week to read and comment. Much appreciated, my friend.



      Liked by 1 person

  • It’s amazing what you get out from your kitty everytime Rochelle. What a chilling history over there. And a well connected story to the prompt. 🙂

    Thanks for the article. It was horrifying. I quickly scanned through the symptoms that were a living nightmare for Mollie Maggia. I’m still in trauma with what had happened to her jaw. Sadly it’s only when we lose human lives that we realize that there is a problem, and sometimes, which is most of the times, humans just ignore their duty to other human beings at will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Norma,

      There’s a wealth of information on the internet. All we need to is follow the trail. 😉 This one was dropped into my email by a friend who thought I’d find it interesting.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. 😀



      Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Rochelle, I love your flash fiction based on historical facts. So brilliant to manage to covey so much in such few words. Fortunately we’ve come a long way since then, although health and safety at work is an ongoing battle…


  • Alpha radiation is a pain. Can’t penetrate paper, but get it inside your body through ingesting or through a cut and your systems thinks is calcium, sends it to your bones, where the alpha particles keep hammering away until you crumble. What a horrible way to die. Lovely story, as always, Rochelle.



    Liked by 1 person

  • Hi Rochelle, this is a brilliant story. The setting at the graveside is so simple and powerful and the story of the deaths and cover ups is chilling. The clicking Geiger counter juxtaposed with the official explanation is …wow!

    Liked by 1 person

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