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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"

Mostly I Remember My Mother Being Tired

 My mother and I and my baby sister were left alone as soon as the war started.

 By Caroline McCarthy                      b. 1938

My dad volunteered for the Navy right away because he didn’t want to fight in the mud like his father had done in the Army.  We didn’t live way out in the country, but we were up the coast, pretty far from town.   You couldn’t call it a real farm, but my dad liked to raise our own chickens and tend a big vegetable garden.

Taking care of our place pretty much by herself was a big job, and she was not a big woman.  On top of that, I used to see how hard she had to work to figure out how much gasoline she had to get around and how many ration stickers she needed for this and that.

With no end to the war in sight,  she became weary, but not discouraged. “Lots of people have it worse than we do,” she would repeat.  I had my chores and tried to help, but a five or six-year-old can only do so much.

A memory I have is when I once I found her sound asleep, with her head resting on her arms at the kitchen table.  She tried to look perky when I woke her, but to me she looked so tired.   That’s what I remember from the war.

PS  My dad came home safely.

I was at Hickam Field Dec. 7th 1941

I also grew up in New England during WWII, but before that, we were at Hickam Field, Hawaii, from 1939 to 1942. You know what that means. We were THERE on Day One of the US entry into WWII.

Jacqueline Holcomb   b. 1933

My father was in the Army Air Corps. He was a crew chief in charge of the maintenance of the B-17, Flying Fortresses, while they were on the ground at Hickam. On December 7th, 1941, my father was at the hangers on duty. My mother and we 6 kids were in our quarters not far from the runway. We were situated on a path from the bombers to the battleships at Pearl. The Japanese flew right over us, so low you could see their faces. A bomb from one of their planes landed in our quarters in a closet. It didn’t go off because the plane was flying so low when the bomb was dropped that it didn’t have time to detonate. Lucky for us.

My mother was remarkable. Only 29 at the time with 6 kids ranging in age from 4 to 9 (set of twins in there) she kept her composure while trying to keep us safe. She (unsuccessfully) tried to fix breakfast. But when a bomb exploded one street over, it shattered all the windows on the side of our house where the kitchen was, so she herded us into the hallway, removed a mattress from a bed and placed us on it and covered us with another mattress. After a while, a soldier came in a Jeep to evacuate us from the base.

We spent a week or so (I have no idea how long) with friends in Honolulu until we were allowed back on base. Our windows had to be replaced and then covered with blackout shades. There were bomb shelters dug into the ground in our backyards, etc. We had a lot of air raid drills and had to go into the bomb shelters. Since we went to school on the base, there was no school for us until we returned to the states at the end of February, beginning of March. Our school, among most large buildings were commandeered for troops, etc, coming over from the mainland.

We travelled from Hawaii on a Navy ship to San Francisco (11 days) and by train to Boston (4 days). My mother was a Bostonian. We stayed there until my father returned in May. He was stationed at Grenier Field in Manchester, NH.

He was a New Hampshirite. My dad was TSgt. George T Lord when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was a Warrant Officer when he returned to the states. He retired a Chief Warrant Officer in 1950 after 34 years in the Army Air Corps/United States Army Air Corps/United States Air Force.

My two younger sisters and I followed in his footsteps and joined the Air Force. My husband and the husband of one of my sisters served over 20 years in the USAF. For several years I have given my story to civic groups (Civitan, Rotary, DAR, etc), Veterans Day programs, schools and colleges. Now, I only speak to the 6th graders of the local Middle School. I was 8 years old when we were bombed, so I am really up there in years now and can barely get around.

Your book arrived in the mail this morning so I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I wanted to share my story.

 

 

Greeting the Troop Train

 

We all knew when it was a troop train because of the color of the cars.

Frank Galvin born.  1934

The Southern Railway’s cars were a bright ‘livery green’ and the troop trains were plain gray or brown.  The trains all stopped just outside of Charleston, we guessed as a safety check, and that gave everyone a chance to go down and greet the troops, mostly recruits, heading to Fort Benning, Georgia.

We brought them food, of course, mostly sweets, and we also brought them toilet items like soap and razors.  What I remember most about all that was how everyone from all around came down together.  It was like all those soldiers were our own family, including the black soldiers.

For that time we were all together.  It was too bad it took a war.

 

I Went to the USO – Almost

 

Some people thought you were a bad girl if you went to the USO

By Mary Long   born  1930

I was too young to go into the USO canteen, but I did hang around to see what it was all about.  At our USO in Portland it was mostly sailors.  The girls who did go said that they were nice.   Some were afraid of going overseas and wanted a girl to write to them.  My friends, Marie and Claire, would get their names and a bunch of us would write to them.  Sometimes we would get letters back from sailors we hadn’t even met.

When the war was over they all went home and the letters slowly stopped coming.

Still Fearful

 

I can confess it now to people who read this blog who are sort of from the same era..  I was terrified. 

by Sarah Miller b.  1932

All day long I heard grown ups and older kids in the street talking about the Germans and the Japs and how they were winning.    In the news reels at the movies I saw how powerful the Germans looked with all the tanks and thousands of marching men.  My Uncle Alan told me how mean the Japs were to our Marines.

Two girls in my school lost their brothers and one of them stayed home for a long time.  My father worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and told me he and the other men were building ships that would go fight them and that we would win, but I was still afraid.

I spent all those years so scared.  I had bad dreams about German soldiers breaking into our house.  After the war my mother said she thought I was just a quiet kid.

I’m well over 80 now and I still have moments of fear come over me.   You just don’t forget that.

Old Habits Die Hard

As a child of the greatest generation I was not involved in scrap and paper drives  but,
From:  Baby BOOmer
I do remember my father bringing scrap to junkyards for as long as he was alive.  He prospered through the depression and did pretty well, even through the war years.  He became a squatter and had his own junkyard, finally having to surrender the land to the Grand Central RR.
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He use to tell me stories about once wealthy people who lost it all during the depression.  In order for them to collect “home relief”, they had to get rid of their autos.  Word spread that my dad would pick them up for free.  He’d hitch hike, get a ride or take a bus to get the cars –  Stanley Steamer, REO, Cadillacs, and more.  He’d drive the vehicle to his yard, drain the liquids, remove the rubber and copper wires and finally scrap the iron.  Suddenly war broke out and everything was rationed.  He had gas, oil, antifreeze, and tires.  You can guess how well he did.
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  I remember when I was a small kid how he’d drive to the Bronx several times a week to get scrap batteries, copper and brass.  And I recall well-dressed men in suits and ties driving in and emptying their trunks.
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I can’t imagine this happening today with our throw away society.  Plastics everywhere.  I’m sure you took soda bottles back for 2 cents and 5 cents.  Today I see kids go into a store and literally throw the pennies on the ground and me, this old guy, showing my ass and elbows to pick them up, getting a snicker from the kids!  Well, OK.
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And some old family traditions die hard.  If I’m working at someone’s house and see copper pipes in their trash, they go in my truck!  The market says it’s worth $2.50 a pound.  That’s super high.  In the next month I’ll be going to the Bronx with about 1000 lbs of copper and brass.  I’ll probably come back with $3-$4000.  My kids are amazed!!
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Old habits die hard.
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My Friends and I “Do Our Part” (and maybe a bit more)

 

“Do your part,” was a sign we saw all around Aiken. 

by J. Devine b. 1932

The Standard did picture stories about women who volunteered at various things, and families who grew big victory gardens.  Paper drives were publicized and you could get a map of all the drop off places for the fat, rubber and other things  you saved.  At the movies you would see President Roosevelt looking straight at you urging you to “do your part.”

My friends and I were urged to form a team and scavenge for scrap metal – old farm machinery parts, tin wash tubs and such.  At first we went at it because we felt it was our patriotic duty and, honestly, because of some pressure on us from our parents and teachers.  But then someone got hold of a chart that showed what could be done with the scrap.  “100 pounds of scrap can turn into X combat helmets,  Y machine guns,” and so forth.  I don’t remember the exact numbers.

Image result for images WWII scrap
Photo credit The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center

Once we saw how we were really helping our boys and the war effort we went hammer and tong every scrap drive.

We did have a problem one time.  One of the boys turned in a new looking car bumper that wasn’t scrap.  The owner of the car figured out what happened.  He was mad, but when he saw what we were doing he said he wouldn’t tell the police if we promised not to “create” scrap again.

From Buicks to Bombers

During the war my dad was Traffic Manager at the General Motors plant in Linden New jersey.

By Marilyn Singerle Wood    b. 1937

He was responsible for getting the necessary parts to build the cars. But during WWII, his job changed. General Motors, being adjacent to the Linden Airport, was now also building airplanes, primarily the FM Fighters. He now had to make sure the necessary airplane parts were also available

During the war, the GM plant in Linden, New Jersey enlarged their facility and organized a new division.   On January 21, 1942 Eastern Aircraft was born.   The new Eastern Aircraft division produced 7860 Wildcats and 9839 Avengers.    These airplanes helped the U.S. Navy and Marines dominate the sky over the Pacific during WWII.

(this picture was pulled from https://www.military.com/veteran-jobs/career-advice/military-transition/from-building-buicks-to-bombers.html)

 

 

I moved to Framingham, Mass. In 1947 when my Dad was transferred from the General Motors plant in Linden, New Jersey to the new General Motors plant in Framingham.

So many things were in short supply that many things were rationed; gas for cars and many food items – butter, milk and eggs. We had a huge “Victory Garden” in our backyard and grew all kinds of vegetables. My mom and dad spent hours in the garden and my brother and I helped. The most fun was picking the vegetables. After picking the vegetables, my mom and Dad spent several more hours in our basement canning them. Tomatoes straight from the vine taste a lot better than the ones from the grocery store. We also had a few chickens so we had a good supply of eggs and of course the occasional chicken for Sunday dinner.

One thing that was a little scary was when the air raid sirens sounded at night and seeing the search lights moving around in the sky searching for airplanes. In order to keep as much light as possible from being seen from the air, the cars had to have black tape across the top half of the headlights so you could still drive at night, but with a lot less light being seen from above. Also dark shades on house windows had to be drawn when the sirens sounded. I can’t remember how often they sounded, but when they did it was scary. My mom and dad were Air Raid Wardens along with some of our neighbors and they would walk around the neighborhood making sure everyone was following the rules.

When we moved to Framingham I was in the third grade at Jonathan Maynard. I have many fond memories of my school days and the friends I had growing up there, but  the New England accent and some of their words were different than I was used to.

When the principal at Jonathan Maynard, I think her name was Miss Cushing, asked me to get her the green tumbler I had no idea what that was. I quickly learned that it was a glass. Also, I learned that soda was pop or tonic.

 

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My memories of the war years are few, dark and scary

I lived in Boston, not far from the airport and Navy Yard.

By John Peterson  b. 1937

 

I recall talk about both being possible targets of German submarines and aerial attack by Japanese bombers, which of course was a remote threat.  However, they seemed all the more real to me when I was told, truly or falsely, that an anti-aircraft gun was mounted atop the roof of the Navy Yard.  But I think that the older boys in the school liked to tease the first-graders about this and other things.  Yet the possibility seemed real to a five or six year old who regularly participated in air-raid drills, standing against the wall in the basement of the school, and who had to wear an ID tag around his neck.

I recall trying to identify the shape and size of US bombers such as the B-17, B-25 and later the B-29, so  that when I saw a bomber overhead (which occurred frequently) that didn’t match these I would be ready to run for cover! I also had a book with pictures of Japanese bombers one of which as I now recall we called “Betty”.

The whole thing was made more real by the fact that I had two older cousins serving in the Navy aboard the Wasp and the Portland (a carrier and a cruiser, respectively)  in the Pacific and hearing some bad news about both ships. The Portland took a hit on her rudder at the Savo Island battle but returned after repairs to participate later on in the Battle of Leyte Gulf where she came through unscathed.

As for the original Wasp which as a child I believe I once boarded when she was in port in Boston, my memory is that she was sunk.

I remember we had to stand in line for some food items which were rationed. The government issued red and blue tokens to be used for food. the red ones I recall were for meat and the blue ones for non-meat items.

Sorry I can’t right now think of any other memories of this time.

 

 

 

 

A Japanese Zero Over Ohio!

Peter Onksen   b. 1937

A very big memory for me during WWII was seeing a Japanese Zero fly overhead.  The US Army Air Force was flight testing the captured Zero from its airport, Wright-Patterson.

My dad, Joseph Onksen, worked for AeroProducts, a subsidiary of General Motors, at the Dayton Ohio airport during WWII.  They made propellers for military aircraft.   We lived in Tipp City Ohio.

I attended the first 3 grades in the Tippecanoe School system.  We lived on First Street with a levy behind the house that was to protect the town from flooding from the local river.  We kids played war games in tall weeds beside the house and “flew” paper airplanes from cereal boxes.

My sister, Susan, was born when I was  three years old and we were living in Anderson, Indiana (my home town).  By the time she as one we had lived in Louisville Kentucky, Morgantown West Virginia and had just moved to Tipp City.  My dad had been transferred to various General Motors subsidiary plants.

On December 7, 1941 we were over at my dad’s folks house in Anderson.   The men were in my grandfather’s “special room” playing pool and the women were cooking in the kitchen and I was playing with my cousins, after the women heard the announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack, they told me to go to the cellar and tell the men.

I also remember thinking that when the war was over that there would no longer be radio news programs and we could listen to my favorite radio mystery programs.  We lived an easy walk from the town center and I often walked to the movie theater on a Saturday afternoon where I could watch the movies, eat popcorn and drink a Coke for a quarter.

After the war my dad was transferred to the Framingham General Motors plant.  In fact he was the plant electrical engineer and he worked there during the plant’s construction.  We arrived in Framingham before the school year was over, as the mid west school year ended earlier so the kids could work on the family farms.  My first school year in Framingham was grade four.

My memories of moving to Framingham, Mass. include a surprise in how New Englanders  pronounce their words.   My name is Peter, but in New England it’s Peetah.

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