Remember When: Kilroy Was Here!
By Phil Heywood, Briarwood resident and regular contributor to the monthly residents’ newsletter, News & Notes.
Where? Here, there and everywhere! Kilroy became known as the U.S. Super GI who had “already been” wherever GIs went. As the legend grew it became a challenge to place the logo in the most unlikely places. Some say it has been seen on the Statue of Liberty, the Arc de Triomphe and on top of Mt. Everest. Kilroy is even engraved in stone in the National War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Do you remember the first time you heard of or saw Kilroy?
So who was Kilroy and how and why did the signs originate? It all started during World War II when a man named Kilroy was a defense worker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. His job was to check on the riveters who did piecework paid by the rivet.
A problem developed as it was discovered that after Kilroy’s shift was over, his check marks for completed work were being erased so that the rivets would be counted a second time by the next shift inspector resulting in double pay for the riveters. To correct the situation, Kilroy continued using his wavy chalk check marks for each job inspected but added “KILROY WAS HERE” in king sized letters next to the check. Later he added the sketch of the chap with the long nose peering over a fence and that became part of the Kilroy message. In 1948 the radio program “Speak to America” sponsored a nationwide contest to find the real Kilroy. The prize was to be an actual trolley car! Of the 40 entries received, James Kilroy of Halifax, Massachusetts, gave documented evidence that proved he was the winner. He gave the prize to his nine children for Christmas where they set it up in Dad’s back yard as a playhouse. James died in 1962 and was buried in Halifax where his tombstone inscription may well read, “Kilroy Was Here!”