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I fear losing the collective memory of a generation, a very unique generation. Born in the 1930s we are small in number and all aging into our 80s. We are what I call “The Last Ones” We are the last who can remember the war, it’s rationing, its tensions and its joyous end.

We are the last ones who remember the post war boom and the formation of the American Middle class. We are the last ones who grew up without television; instead imagining what we heard on the radio.

We are also the last ones who grew up feeling safe. By the mid-fifties all that began to change.

Some call us The Silent Generation. That may be the case, but I hope this blog can capture and celebrate the memories of other children of the 1930s from around the country. The focus has been the post war years of 1945 to 1955, but that can change with your guidance.

I know there are lots of nostalgia pieces flying around about old time radio shows, 78 rpm records, and the candies we had back then. That's not what I’m hoping for. I'm hoping this blog can capture our stories and feelings and observations of those times.

Please read on.
Share this blog so that more can remember, some will learn and none may forget

C. D. Peterson, "Pete"

Just Bits and Bobs

Jane Runyon calls these snippets ‘bits and bobs.’
 .

Another “bit”

Rosalie Bourlund’s 1945 parachute bridal gown.

An example of ingenuity on the home front around World War II, a young bride in Texas fashioned a wedding dress out of the parachute that saved her groom’s life while he bailed out over the Rhine near Wesel, Germany.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and wedding
 
Another “bob
.
Winoah Drake tells that her grandmother remembered one of her brothers giving a girl one of the ultimate signs of love during the war: his sugar ration. Their mother wasn’t happy about that, but she couldn’t fault him, since it really was a generous act. He joined the Navy soon after that. They didn’t get married when he returned, unfortunately, but I still love that story.

The Forgotten Language of the Home Front

Our friend Don Parker received this with no author credit.  I’ll bet you remember lots of other words from back then – send them in!  If we get enough, I’ll try to write a story using only the old words.  Thanks.      Pete

Murgatroyd, remember that word?  Would you believe the email spell checker did not recognize the word Murgatroyd?   Heavens to Murgatroyd!   Lost Words from our childhood: Words gone as fast as the buggy whip!  Sad really.

The other day a not so elderly lady said something to her son about driving a Jalopy and he looked at her quizzically and said “What the heck is a Jalopy?”He never heard of the word jalopy! She knew she was old, … but not that old.

Well, I hope you are Hunky Dory after you read this and chuckle.

About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology.  These phrases included “Don’t touch that dial,” “Carbon copy,” “You sound like a broken record” and “Hung out to dry.”  “Loose lips sink ships.”

Back in the olden days we had a lot of ‘moxie’. We’d put on our best ‘bib and tucker’ to ‘straighten up and fly right’.  Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley!  We were ‘in like Flynn’ and ‘living the life of Riley’.  “Don’t be a tail end Charlie.”

Even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!

Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell?   Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the DA., of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, penny loafers and pedal pushers. And don’t forget Saddle Stitched Pants.

Oh, my aching back! Kilroy was here, .. but he isn’t anymore.  And nobody minds their beeswax anymore or gives anybody the bum’s rush.  (You might have to put up your dukes.)  When was the last time that all was copacetic?  Try to spend four bits today.

We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap and before we can say, “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” Or, This is a ‘fine kettle of fish’! We discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.

Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we’ve left behind.  We blink, and they’re gone. It gives me the heebie-jeebies. Where have all those great phrases gone?

Long gone: Pshaw, The milkman did it. Hey, it’s your nickel!   Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. It looks like a dog’s breakfast.  Well, Fiddlesticks! Going like sixty.      I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Wake up and smell the roses. It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter has liver pills.

This can be disturbing stuff! (“Carter’s Little Liver Pills” are gone too.)  We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeable times. For a child, each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once existed and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memories.  It’s one of the greatest advantages of aging.  Leaves us to wonder where Superman will find a phone booth.

See ya later, alligator!      Okidoki!

See ya later, alligator!      See ya soon baboon!

See ya later, alligator!     After a while crocodile!

Being a German American in a Defense Plant

by Emil Bechler  b. 1944

I was born in 1944 so I don’t remember much about the war, but my father told me his story.

He came to the US in 1937 when things were getting bad in Germany.  We were not Jews, but life there for everybody was getting very stressful.  He got to Detroit and became a machinist in a Briggs plant that made parts for cars.  When the war came, Briggs went over to war production.   He became a citizen, but my father never lost his thick accent and while other workers used to poke fun at him once in a while, when the war started some of the comments became unfriendly and even threatening.

On top of that, there was a lot of union activity and some people thought he was involved.  He was not.  Fortunately for my father, he was very good at what he did.  When pressure was on for production, he could produce excellent work and high output.  Other workers became persuaded that he was a loyal American.

My father never complained about what happened, but I know it affected him.   Briggs closed the plant after the war and my father went to work in a small machine shop.

 

My First View of the War

My parents were driving us from Miami to Bridgeport Conn. in summer of 1942 along A1A in Florida…..we stopped the car to look at three sunken tankers miles apart.
And not too far from shore….a ten year old kid saw war for the first time….and it frightened me.

Richard Onkey b. 1932

I am sending a picture made in 1943…..taken at the time of my father’s funeral…..My oldest brother John was in The Army Air Force.  He later flew P51s out of England and is credited with destroying three German planes. My brother Phil was 13 and my younger brother Tommy was 9. I was 11 and am standing between my two younger brothers. This is the only picture I could find about this time period.

 

I Just Wanted to Know

War time on the home front for me was worry

By Richard Clark   b. 1937

I grew up near Reno, Nevada.   My father was in the Army.  By the time I got into school in 1943 (a two-room school house) the war was already going on for some time.   My mother and our neighbors tried not to talk about the war when I was around, but I overheard plenty and I was confused trying to figure what it was all about.  I could see that something big was going on and there were lots of changes.  Even though they talked in whispers, I picked up that the war was something to really be afraid of.

When I got into school I found out just how bad a thing the war was.  I began to worry about my father.  The older kids made it sound like the Germans and  ‘Japs’ were ready to invade and kill us.  My mother said they were just trying to scare us young ones.

I never got really afraid, but I was never sure.  I wanted to know what was going on more than anything and I couldn’t find out!   I spent my war time worrying.   Maybe that is fear.

I know now how my imagination made things worse.  It was tough to be a kid during the war.

My father came home OK.

 

A Call for Posts

Home Front exists to share the stories of growing up during the war.  Please consider sending your story or asking some one you know who may be able to relate their story.

Thanks.

Pete

“Pig Clubs” on the Home Front (resend)

(Some emails were omitted from this and one other post.  Re sending.)

We all learned how to make do.

Dovey Sommers   b.  1936

I grew up in near Delmar, NY south of Albany.  We weren’t a poor village, but we weren’t well off.   My mother and the other women around spent a lot of time trying to keep food in the house using ration coupons and scrimping with what we had.  We shifted over to margarine or salted lard instead of butter sometimes and one neighbor’s son could get us powered eggs.

Most important was that we couldn’t waste anything.   It was a minister in town who heard about the idea of “pig clubs,” which were just like it sounds.   Three or four families would get together and buy a pig and fatten it up with everyone’s leftover scraps.  When the pig grew to size the families butchered it and shared the meat.

Our pig club would start a second pig just before the first one was grown.  Some people had “chicken clubs,” too.

It seems funny to talk about that now, but at the time it seemed like just something you had to do to help win the war.

 

 

Swifts Salutes Mrs. America, Patriot!

 

The Swift meat people ran this advertisement in the magazines praising the roles of women on the home front.  I’ve kept it as a reminder.

Ellen Carballo     b.1940

“Her Seven Jobs All Help Win the War”

  1. WIFE! She knows that her husband can carry on the war pace of his job only if she keeps his home a peaceful, happy place.  She’s a loving and lovable person, doing a fine job of home-making.  A salute for being that kind of wife.
  2. MOTHER! She guards her youngsters’ health, body and mind.  She sees they foods from the “basic 7” Nutritional Groups daily. Sensing their shock from wartime headlines, she calmly explains why American men go off to fight.
  3. PURCHASING AGENT! She realizes rationing means fair sharing.  She sympathizes with dealers – understands why she often cannot get just the cut she wants, or the Swift’s brands of beef or other meats she’d prefer to have.
  4. COOK! She cooks with care to save nutritive values. She makes the most of meat; reduces shrinkage by cooking at low temperature; prepares attractive dishes from leftovers; learns to cook every kind of cut so it will taste its very best.
  5. SALVAGE EXPERT! She wastes nothing, for she knows Food Fights for Freedom.  She uses every bit of leftovers, even bones are saved for soup.  She regularly takes to her dealer the drippings of fat that have no further cooking use.
  6. WAR WORKER! She joins wholeheartedly in the community projects of civilian defense.  She sends neat bandages on far errands of mercy.  And (to hear her it is a matter of special pride) the honored list of blood donors includes her name.
  7. WAR BOND BUYER! She does without things she wants, so our men will have the things they need. Over 10%of her husband’s pay goes for War Bonds, plus dollars she saves in her household budget.

Swifts salutes Mrs. America, Patriot!

“Pig Clubs” on the Home front

We all learned how to make do.

Dovey Sommers   b.  1936

I grew up in near Delmar, NY south of Albany.  We weren’t a poor village, but we weren’t well off.   My mother and the other women around spent a lot of time trying to keep food in the house using ration coupons and scrimping with what we had.  We shifted over to margarine or salted lard instead of butter sometimes and one neighbor’s son could get us powered eggs.

Most important was that we couldn’t waste anything.   It was a minister in town who heard about the idea of “pig clubs,” which were just like it sounds.   Three or four families would get together and buy a pig and fatten it up with everyone’s leftover scraps.  When the pig grew to size the families butchered it and shared the meat.

Our pig club would start a second pig just before the first one was grown.  Some people had “chicken clubs,” too.

It seems funny to talk about that now, but at the time it seemed like just something you had to do to help win the war.

 

 

The Chicago Home Front

It was a time I’ll never forget

Kent Schroeder    b.  1935

I was 6 years old when WWII started (Dec 7th 1941) and was living in Chicago with my parents and grandparents.  I remember hearing FDR’s speech and watched my father, who was 40 years old go down and join the Navy. Because of his education and background, he received an officer’s rank and has sent to Baltimore, MD to do officer recruiting for the Navy. My mother and I joined him and I went to elementary school (Montibello ). We stayed in Baltimore for one year until my father volunteered for more active duty and was sent to Amphibious Assault training in Coronado, CA. Mother and I joined him for 6months until he completed training and was assigned to the USS Napa (APA 157).
When he went aboard and left California, my mother and I returned to Chicago and spent the rest of the war there. My father went on to land the Marines at Iwo Jima. He led the LCM’s from the large ships into the beach for 3 days and nights, picking up wounded and dead personnel on the return trip.
The USS Napa and USS Logan collided during the battle and both ships were sent to Guam and Pearl Harbor for repairs, thus missing the invasion of Okinawa. When Japan surrendered, the USS Napa went to French Indo-China (Vietnam) and brought the Chinese Nationalist Armies to Formosa (Taiwan) My father returned home in 1946 and resumed his civilian life.
My family supported the war effort by buying was stamps and bonds and my elementary school sold enough bonds to purchase a jeep for the army. We saved papers, metal coat hangers, and every item that was needed for the war. There were no protestors and the country was dedicated to winning. News from the battles didn’t get back to us for days or weeks and we didn’t know where my father was going or who was winning. Blue and Gold star flags hung in windows all over Chicago denoting a loved one was serving and/or dying for his country. It was a time in my life I will never forget.
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