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"

The “52-20″ Club Helped Veterans

By Joseph Altman b. 1935

When most of us who were there at the time think about the end of the war we think about the parades and celebrations, but the readjustments were difficult – for both the servicemen and their families.  We had four boys in our town who had what we called shell shock.  They stayed to themselves mostly, but It was awful to see them on the street.

But lots of other boys who came home found it hard to get back into civilian life.   My uncle James had troubles adapting.  He tried some work but just needed more time to settle in.  One day he told me he was joining the” 52-20 Club.”  It was a program that gave men like him $20 a week for 52 weeks, or until they got a job,  to help them.  He joked about it, but he was a little embarrassed I could tell.   He got a job in a short time.

We don’t often talk about these kinds of things that happened after the war.  There were lots of problems. 

A Comment Meant for All

Comments :Pete: Thanks so much for all the “memoirs” you’ve published from WWII. These memoirs from those of us who were children on the home front are very moving and historically important. Because it is filled with children’s memoirs of the war, your subscribers might be interested in reading my book, “Daddy’s Gone to War”:The Second World War in the Lives of America’s Children (Oxford University Press).

The author is William M. Tuttle, Jr.
I have read the book and commend it to those who care about this era.

WOW – (WOMEN ORDINANCE WORKERS) Still used lipstick!

by Gail Broadman b. 1934

My brother, Raymond, the oldest, went into the Army as soon as the war started.  My sister Phyllis went to work at the Watertown Arsenal.  The arsenal was a huge collection of old brick buildings with its own railroad.  They tried to keep it secret, but everybody knew they made weapons.  Phyllis probably wasn’t supposed to tell me, but she said they made big anti aircraft guns.  She told me because she wanted to tell me about what she and the women did to the guns. 

The women called themselves “WOW” –  women ordinance workers-  and made jokes about that, but the most fun they had was writing on the barrels of the big guns in lipstick.  Mostly they wrote notes to the soldiers like “Go get ’em G. I Joe” and sometimes they wrote fresh things, but some, like Phyllis wrote the names of family members and friends.  Phyllis wrote “This one is for you Raymond” and other messages.

Everything was about the war back then.

The War Meant Moving

It sounds like a joke about Okies moving from Oklahoma to California, but we did.

Several people have sent in posts describing how the war forced them to relocate.  Here is one from Duncan Eisley of Oklahoma b. 1935

   I was eight when we made the move.   My dad enlisted in the Army as soon as the war started so my mother and I lived with my grandfather.  We lived in pretty poor conditions outside of Stillwater.  We had no electricity or running water and we didn’t exactly live off the land, but close to it hunting, trapping and fishing.   My grandfather was old, but strong and healthy.   One day a member of our church told him and some others that if you could work a twelve-hour day the airplane factories in California were begging for men and paid big money.  They even gave you a house to live in. 

My mother was afraid for us to set off by ourselves in our old truck, so my grandfather talked to some other people and we gathered up three families to go in a caravan.  The trip wasn’t too bad as others had given us tips on how to do it.

We ended up in Santa Monica and my grandfather got work right away at Clover Field working for Douglas.  It was a big change for us.  We got to live in a small trailer, but it had electricity and water.  One thing I remember liking the most is that I could go to a store and buy food. 

It was like a big camp and we all learned about each other and where everybody came from.   Sometimes someone lost a family member in the war and people gathered to help out. 

Mostly there was a good spirit because we knew we were all working for the war effort.

“Her Seven Jobs All Help Win the War”

From a January, 1944 advertisement by Swift brands of beef in Good Housekeeping

  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 jobof home-making.  A salute for being that kind of wife.
  2. MOTHER!  She guards her youngsters’ health, body and mind.  She sees they get 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 car 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 that 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 her it is a matter of special pride) the honor list of blood donors includes her name.
  7. WAR BONDS 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. 

Swift salutes Mrs. America, Patriot!

A Wave and a Marine

By Pam Munson Steadman b. 1945

She walked into the college cafeteria avoiding his glance.   He was cleaning off neighboring tables and she pretended she didn’t see him.   He knew better though.

The Duke was playing “Sophisticated Lady” on the radio in the background and this tall, skinny, basketball jock thought it appropriate indeed.   He had always liked brunettes.  This one reminded him of his favorite actress, Jane Russell.   She had an edge to her and he wanted to find out more.   She liked to present herself as not being interested.   

Things were about to change, he thought to himself, as she pushed her long hair to the side while feigning a quick peek his way.

“Can I get you anything at all, sweetheart” he asked with a boyish grin and a wink.

“Nope.  I’m just fine, thank you,” she retorted, thinking him extremely forward, even though a little bit of her sort of enjoyed his arrogant mannerisms.

A few months later, she, who had not an athletic bone in her body, would show up each day at the campus tennis court with borrowed racquet in hand.   Sometimes, he would be out there furiously slamming the ball, and at other times, he would be talking to Sally, the chunky blonde at the end of her dorm hall.   “See ya doll,” he would shout to this Sally, knowing full well that the brunette was watching and hearing his every word and moves.

His roommate came back to the men’s dorm one afternoon with news about the jock’s brunette interest.  “Hey, Mel.  Your brunette is going out with me tonight.”

“You might have a date with her, pal, but I’m the guy she’s going to marry,” the jock told him forthright.   

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and lives in the nation and world suddenly changed forever.  

The college jock did manage to have a couple of dates with the interesting brunette, and his roommate’s chances were nothing more than history.   

The plan was to get up to Pittsburgh and sign up for the Army.   

All of his buddies, who usually joined him in following The Big Bands on weekends, were heading back to their home states and becoming the start of The Greatest Generation.   

While in a line forming for Army recruitment, the jock was somehow redirected into the line signing up for The US Marines.  He shrugged, and a proud Marine he became.

The brunette told her friends…and in later years, her extended family…that the real reason she had gone to college was to “be where the boys were, of course!”   So, this brunette followed the jock.  He was assigned to Quantico, VA, and she was given nurses’ training at Bethesda Naval Hospital as a Wave in the Navy.   The two of them often met on leave in DC, pounding the pavement and enjoying one another’s company.

The jock called the brunette suddenly one afternoon and informed her that she had only one chance to answer his question.   He was “shoving off” for The Pacific and he wanted her to marry him.   She never gave it a second thought…although years later, she often told folks that maybe she just might have been a wee bit hasty in her decision.   But the war was on and the likes of The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, and other romantic bands, tore away at many a heartstring.

They eloped, found a seedy little hotel (the only kind they could afford at that time), sent telegrams to their parents, and brought in a bag of “White Castle” hamburgers to munch on for their wedding night.   Oooops!   The jock promised he would be right with her.   First of all, he needed to hear Johnny Boyer on the radio with the sports announcements of the day.

And so it was……the jock was injured in a jeep accident in Okinawa and missed the first six months of his daughter’s life.  

Their marriage lasted for more than sixty years and produced four children, seven grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren.   

Mel and Doroth Doak Munson

Both Mom and Dad have passed, but their memories linger… 

Dad was always his happiest singing Sinatra tunes and reminiscing about Big Bands and sharp brunettes on college campuses.

The New Hampshire State Guard Saved Lives

Newton Tolman of New Hampshire told journalist Roy Hoopes:

I was interested in the State Guard, because I knew a lot of these young kids who had never gone through the sixth grade  and I thought “Jesus they’ll get drafted and they don’t know how to kill or drill; they don’t know nothing.” So I went all over the area, not only in my town, telling the young kids to get into the State Guard. They’d say, “What for?” And I’d say, “Well you’re going to get drafted.  Don’t you know there’s a war going on?”

Well, I talked a lot of them into it.  A fellow who was in here this morning got into the Marines.  He has only one eye now.  He had a terrible time, but he made it out. If he hadn’t had this State Guard preliminary training he wouldn’t have. These guys could hardly read or write or anything, but they learned to drill, they learned the routine, principally the phony part of it but you have to learn it. Once a week we’d have encampments, and then we’d go out there or four nights and have sham battles in the woods and that kind of stuff.  All the officers got drunk as hell.  These kids remember that training to this day.  I saw one yesterday who I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years.  He said, “You know, you saved my life with that State Guard thing.”

Credit for this story goes to Roy Hoopes  (1922-2009) “Americans Remember the Home Front”

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.

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