The local newspaper has been running a series of articles this week remembering the greatest generation. The columnist that has put it together is Tom Hennesy. Mr Hennesy has written many such articles in his tenure at the Press Telegram. He is a huge supporter of Americas fighting men and women. He has also been very active in the erection of monuments here locally and on some of the islands on which our servicemen have fought. This series of articles focused on local men and women during WWII. He had a overwhelming response to his request for remembrance’s from living veterans and the thoughts passed on by wives, children and others. Some of them have been heart wrenching, others proud to read. I was a product of that time and I thought I might take the time to recount some of my youthful remembrances.
The first thing I remember occurred while living on Limestone St. (the first house I can vividly remember) I could have been no older than four at the time (and yes I have many memory’s of this time). It was night time and we had the lights on and a man in a raincoat wearing a steel round,white helmet came to the door caring a flashlight and told my father that we were having a blackout and he had to turn out the lights. I of course did not understand and asked my day why? He said so they could not drop bombs on us. This was in Missouri!!That led to more questions which I probably never understood at the time but I can remember it plainly.
A little later we moved to Walnut street, this was the location a few chapters back where Pearline the baby sitter took me to the graveyard. I was five then and had a better understanding of war. I had the toys of the day wooden rifles and handguns, chalk and lead soldiers. Boats and tanks and such were what boys played with in these war years. My uncles all four of then were involved by then. I remember shopping with my mother at the five and dime store for a Christmas gift to send to her youngest brother who was in the Marines. She finally bought him a small bible with a steel back to carry over his heart. At the time I did not know about the other three uncles who were serving as they were all living out of state before but I knew my Uncle Bud. When he came home later he bought a Purple Heart and a Jap rifle and two swords. I lived with him and grandma before and after my mother died for a while.
I also remember buying war bond stamps at school once a week for a quarter. these were placed in a booklet which when filled was worth a $25 savings bond. This was cashed in when I was tenbefore maturity by a cash straped father under the pretext of buying fireworks. I never knew how poor we were really were until I looked back from my adult life. I also remember taking washed tin cans to my first grade class room for scrap drives.
My parents had ration stamps for gas and butter, milk and other stuff. Every body made do with bald tires on their cars. first they were not available and were too expensieve to boot.
We lived a half a block off of highway 66. Many a night I lay in bed and listened to large convoys of heavy military trucks rumble through town. I have since learned many of these convoys were empty civilian moral boosters, that were designed to set the civilian population at ease.
My fathers youngest brother was in the army, he spent two years in the Aleutian Islands before being sent to Germany. There he participated in the relief of the Battered Bastards of Bastone in the Battle of the Bulge, in the dead of winter. His wife worked in the defense industries in California. Never once did he talk of his battlefield experiences. And his daughters said he never spoke to them of it either.
Anyway these are some of what I can recall from those days, not a lot but I have a lot of respect for all those who served and waited at home through that trying time. I have nothing but contenpt for those who do not support our service men and women. And personally I care less what some damned entertainer with a big sense of importance thinks (get that dixie chicks, don’t think they deserve capital letters). Even in peace time it is not the best of experiences, but in war they need all the support they can get.
“a added section”
This little section is being added a day later as I meant to record it yesterday but forgot it until after I was in bed. In 1945 I was six ready to turn 7 in late fall. I can clearly recall it was just past mid-day as the sun was high in the sky on a warm clear day. Suddenly down the street, I was surprised to see the local paper boy was out early, with his bag slung over his shoulder a bunch of paper under his left arm and waving one in the air with his right hand. He was shouting “X-TRA!! E-XTRA!! READ ALL ABOUT IT THE WAR IN EUROPE IS OVER!!”. people were coming out of their houses and buying his papers, I was really impressed with all thiis attention. Later I got some old papers and went out on the front walk and started shouting e-xtra, E-xtra read all about it. I remember my mother coming out on the front porch and telling me to stop because people might get upset with me. It seemed like a good game to me but I complied.
I can also remember when Japan surrendered. We had yellowed copied of both papers stored in my mothers ceader chest for years. My Dad also had a large cartoon drawing he kept stored out of sight (mine) along with some little trick jokes that were not sutiable for a youngsters eyes. It was a printed drawing of Uncle Sam lowering his striped pants and sticking his rear out so a grinning Tojo could kiss it.