This post introduced our blog in April. It’s a special post about those who came of age in the 1940s and early 50s, “the Last Ones.” We are the last ones who personally experienced the scarcity of the depression, the patriotism during World War II and the exuberance in that brief, post-war period when we felt safe and when the middle class was born. Your stories are special. Post your stories here. I’ll share them.
Excerpted from “A Memoir from the Homeland 1941-1955 © C. D. Peterson
All rights reserved
Born in the 1930s, we exist as a very special age cohort. We are the “last ones.” We are the last, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the war itself with fathers and uncles going off. We are the last to remember ration books for everything from sugar to shoes to stoves. We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans. We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available. My mother delivered milk in a horse drawn cart.
We are the last to hear Roosevelt’s radio assurances and to see gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors. We can also remember the drama of “D Day” and the parades in August 1945; VJ Day.
We saw the ‘boys’ home from the war build their cape style houses, pouring the cellar, tar papering it over and living there until they could afford the time and money to build it out.
If you didn’t live your childhood during World War II, please read one account (mine) below. If you did live through the war, what are your war time memories? Submit your story – or just a comment – below. I’ll share them.
“If the Japanese win any more battles they could win all the way to California,” I heard my grandmother say. She was sitting at the scarred desk that served as the hub of our small dairy farm speaking on our only telephone.
I was sure I shouldn’t be listening so I slipped out to be with the men in the dairy.
I had I overheard some of the men talking about how all the Japanese out west were being rounded up and sent out to the desert. Today they were talking about which of their friends were going off. We were a Navy family – my father and two uncles were gone. Two of our men were headed for the army. That would leave just my grandparents, my mother, my Uncle Carl, and me to handle the farm. We did share help and work with our neighbor farms.
Part 2 of 2 (If you missed Part 1, please click here)
Every day we pooled our eavesdropping, snooping and overheard talk of war from each of our homes. Roosevelt’s radio talks were occasions for excitement and serious deliberation by adults. We watched adults closely for signs of fear. We figured out they intended to keep bad news from us. They didn’t want us to be afraid and I think they did a pretty good job. (I never heard Edward R. Murrow’s chilling reports from London until I was a grown man.)
Almost everyone from our era shares this common experience: we went to the Saturday matinee at the local movie. It was part entertainment, part social and part tribal.
“Gene Autry, a war movie, (maybe Tarzan) seven cartoons and a serial!” That was Saturday afternoon at the movies for many of us. Boys never sat with girls. We threw popcorn. And the noise level was deafening. Here is my account of one such Saturday afternoon and a story that made two of us minor legends.
Leave a comment about your experience at the end of this post.
He was big and I was fast. It wasn’t talked about, it was just understood the way kids understand things among themselves. My cousin Dick at 13 stood as big as some of our teachers and I could run like the wind. These facts took on significance on Saturdays as we prepared for the matinee at the Hollis Theater.
Our Saturday matinees were probably like Saturday matinees everywhere in the 40s and early 50s. We saw two features, usually one western and a war picture. Five cartoons ranked OK but seven was better. The serials, though, were pretty poor. We could always spot where they changed something that allowed the hero, who was doomed last Saturday, to cheat death this Saturday. The oldest of my four cousins did like Nyoka the Jungle Girl, however.