It was in 1939 that Franklin D. Roosevelt famously quipped that “men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.”

And 33 years after that, it was a state of mind that twisted fate for Virginia Mumford.

That’s something she now knows after finding an unopened envelope earlier this year that would have changed her life in 1972.

Thumbing through worn documents and black-and-white photographs kept safe for more than three decades in their original sleeves at her New Washington home, Mumford, now 90 years old, spoke with a slow regret about her experience.

It was just before the end of the war in Vietnam and Mumford was sewing, loading and weighing bags of black powder produced at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant in Charlestown. At that time, it was being run by Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp.

Just one year prior, Mumford had been recognized by Olin for five years of service at the plant.

But near the time the plant was taken over by I.C.I. America, Mumford was suddenly laid off from her job there. Mumford said it was a few weeks after being called back from a strike — and allegedly after calling one of the replacement employees a “scab.”

It was a word that was being used all over the plant, Mumford said, but nothing she had ever called anyone.

“I was so mad and upset. I knew I was let go illegally.”

But, she left the plant on those terms. Without making a scene or a fuss about the layoff, she went on a search for new employment.

She was so distressed with everything that had happened after being laid off, that she did not bother to open a letter she had received from I.C.I. America just after the fact. Upset with the circumstances of the whole process, she threw the unopened letter into a box, where she had kept other documents and photos from her time working there.

Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. Time went by and the unopened envelope was forgotten.

But earlier this year — while in the midst of spring cleaning — Mumford happened onto the parcel. Curious about what it contained, she opened it only to find a letter, dated 1972, from I.C.I. offering her job back.

Her seniority would have been unchanged. Her pension, her life insurance policy and her health care coverage all would have remained intact after the layoff. It would have been as if she never left.

“I was just sick (after seeing the letter,)” she said.

Over the years, Mumford found a few other jobs to keep her busy but “I would have loved to have gone back to work there,” she said.

In its heyday, the plant employed thousands in Clark County.

According to a U.S. government report, the plant was modernized in the 1970s in an effort to better manufacture black powder and to make the assembly lines more automated. Production at the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant ceased in 1992.

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