Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Child’s War Memories

As some American’s know (far fewer than should), the USA was drug into World War II by the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The following November 17 (1942), a little girl was born at the home of her maternal grandmother on Lynn Street, in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Soon, she was living in her parent’s home about five miles north of town.

Unlike most folks, her memories go back to well before her second birthday. For one thing, she remembers large flights of airplanes going over their farm (probably to stop at the airport only a couple miles from their home), and her asking her mother where they were going. “To the war,” her mother always replied. The number of planes seemed incredible, even to a little girl.

She also remembers rationing, especially shoes, and saving aluminum foil. The latter was done even to the extreme of separating the foil from its backing on gum wrappers and cigarette packages. In her family, they’d pack the foil all together into balls, perhaps the size of soccer balls. Every so often, her grandparents would take the foil to wherever it was collected for recycling. She also remembers people saving their tin cans and newspapers to be recycled.

Coffee was one of the things rationed during the war, but her dad worked at a local factory where it was readily available. To get some for his coffee-craving wife, he’d fill his thermos with it before he left work each day, so he could take it to her. He was safe from the draft, having served in WW I and since he was employed at a factory that made war supplies as part of its production.

She remembers most of the men in her mother’s family, and some on her father’s side, going into the service. She especially remembers one of her mom’s brothers coming back from the war, when she and her mom met him at the train station. He was in his uniform, and she thought he was just about the handsomest man she’d ever seen. Even at age two, she was a sucker for a man in uniform!

She also remembers the stars in people’s windows, indicating that they had family members in the service, and how many. There was also an indicator for ones who’d given their lives, but she can’t remember what it was.

She remembers practicing "air raid blackouts" at night, when only one light source was allowed inside a home, and it wasn't to be visible from the outside. Naturally, NO lights were allowed outside or in outbuildings. She can;t remember what the cues were for stopping and starting the blackout, though.

They were hard times in some ways, and horrible times in others, but she remembers that people in this country seemed to pull together in a way that she hasn’t seen since, and she believes folks cared more about one another back then. No doubt, she’s right. © 2015


Vicki said...

I recall my parents talking about rationing during the war. I paid attention and it is those things that I tend to stock up on. I think war rationing was one reason that generation was so frugal and why they passed those traits on to our generation.

Gorges Smythe said...

No doubt you're right, Vicki. And the stocking-up idea makes sense.

Mamahen said...

Mom often spoke of the things they did to get by. One of the things she remembered was grandma making cornbread and putting home made icing on it and telling the kids it was cake.

Gorges Smythe said...

Mh, if it was sweet, I'm sure they went for it! lol

Lady Locust said...

It seems like Mom found a couple ration 'coupons' while going through my g-parents place. They were for things like sugar and baking items. Makes one grateful if thought about for half a minute.

Chickenmom said...

They were hard times back then. I still have my own 'war ration book' with the little stickers. My parents always kept the garden up even after the war.

Gorges Smythe said...

We take a lot of things for granted, LL.

Can't say that I blame them, Cm!

Fredd said...

The Nazis and Germans were an existential threat to America. If they won, our way of life would have been over.

We have not faced that kind of threat since. Nothing even close. Well, maybe Soviet nukes, but they never materialized.

We've never had to pull together to face an enemy like in WWII. If one appears, then I think we have it in us to do the same thing we did in WWII, buck up and pitch in. Or die trying.

Gorges Smythe said...

I'd like to think so, Fredd, but when our country elects a gay, muslim communist TWICE, I'm not so sure.