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By Special to the Times
Published August 28, 2005
I lived on a farm located at the crossroads. I received my orders to report to the Navy. I told my mother not to worry. This was April 1942, and the war would be over by Christmas and I would be coming home.
I kissed my mother and walked to the corner at the crossroads where the bus turned around and went back to the city. I was standing, waiting for the bus, and I saw my mother on her hands and knees, weeding her flower garden under the dining room windows. She did not turn to look at me; she did not move. Then I knew she was praying for my safe return. The bus came and I saw as I left, Mother got up, did not look my way and went into the house.
-- Robert M. Vaughan, Palm Harbor
|Charles Cyphert in 1943, while attending training school in Memphis.|
Before World War II, I was pretty much a homebody. It was not until I joined the Navy that I got to travel this great land of ours and meet the people whom I regard as heroes. There were the wonderful farmers who fed not only us but most of the world under the worst of conditions. There were the steelmakers, toolmakers, factory workers, ship and airplane builders, police officers, firefighters and all the rest of labor, without whom we probably would never have gotten very far beyond Pearl Harbor. They worked double shifts seven days a week making the war supplies without which we would have been badly beaten, and did it while giving up their butter, meat, gasoline, new cars and other pleasures so that we, the servicemen, could have the tools of war. They did their part and then some. It was the "then some" that made them my heroes. It was the way they treated the men in uniform, and me, in particular.
Everywhere I went, even right out of boot camp, most people treated me like I was fighting the war all by myself, and I hadn't done anything yet! In Cleveland, at a lunch counter, the waitress wouldn't take my dime for a cup of coffee! In Minneapolis, I couldn't buy a drink in a bar. I would have three of them lined up in front of me before I could get settled on the bar stool, compliments of the other patrons!
On the road, all one had to do was look like you needed a ride, and drivers would pull over and ask you if you wanted one. I can't count all the homecooked meals and parties that I was invited to, all by total strangers. At some bases, the local people maintained a bulletin board listing all the activities available to us, including everything from paid-for and equipped hunting and fishing trips in the Western and Midwest states, to transportation to and from town at some of the more remote bases. Wherever I went, I was treated like someone special, even in California where servicemen and women were coming out of the woodwork, so to speak.
After it was all over and I was boarding a train in Seattle where I was discharged, a stranger came up behind me, slapped me on the back and said, "Good job, sailor," then walked away into the crowd. He was one of those "heroes" of mine. I saluted him as he walked away. It was a good feeling.
-- Charles T. Cyphert, HudsonDads to the rescue
It was 1945 and I was home on furlough. I was coming off the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, N.Y., and my car quit in the middle of the road. I got out and started to lift up the hood and, all of a sudden, six dads came running out with their tool boxes. They replaced the bad coil in my car and also tuned it up. They also replaced one of my tires which had a boot in it. The tire they gave me was bald, but it was better than the one I had on with the leather sticking out. They also gave me ration stamps for gas. I never got their names, but I was grateful. They all had sons in the service, and they treated me like royalty.
-- Anthony Colontonio, New Port Richey
|Emmett Clary with his sister, Linda, one Christmas during wartime.|
I remember our air raid warden making my father put out a fire in the fireplace at our home in Haddonfield, N.J., because he feared German bombers could be guided by the glow. I also remember my mother going to knitting bees to make blankets for the war effort.
I grew up with the pressures of the war. Everything was rationed. We had ration stamps and cardboard ration coins.
I also remember trying horse meat, but it wasn't very good; it tasted like stringy pot roast. We all collected scrap metal and took it to a bin at school. We were even told to save empty toothpaste tubes because they were made of metal in those days.
The most poignant thing was that most houses had white banners with red stars hanging in their windows. That indicated someone in the house - a son, a brother, a father - was in the armed services. Even more poignant was that it seemed about every 10th house had a gold star, which indicated someone there had been killed. Death touched all of us.
-- Emmett A. Clary Jr., TampaChildren pitch in
I was only 9 years old when the war started, and all the men in our family (fathers, uncles, etc.) joined the service. My mother, her three sisters and all the children moved in with our grandparents in a huge home in Tampa for the duration. Each of us had that same strong sense of wanting to do something to help the war effort. So we walked all over town, looking for little pieces of aluminum foil off of chewing gum wrappers. It would take a couple of weeks, but we would end up with a large solid ball of aluminum, and we would take it to a drop-off collection place. We would be so proud.
We were told that if we learned to eat three vegetables we didn't like, that would be another way we could help, as food was rationed. I remember choking down carrots, spinach and broccoli, telling myself with every bite, "This is helping to win because that leaves the better-to-eat things for our soldiers!"
The proudest day of my life was when I finally bought a war bond. We children sacrificed penny candy and the things a kid would usually buy to save the $18.75.
-- Jean Hobbs, Port RicheyMemories, carefully preserved
Efficiency was the goal of the moment in cleaning out the bottom of an old linen closet, but it took a back seat to surprise as I retrieved an old yellowing box, gone unnoticed through the years. Carefully lifting the delicate lid, I flashed back to my early childhood in World War II. Apparently, my mother had carefully preserved the last few ration books that were issued in my name, along with some vivid memories of those times.
It was as though I were in my grandmother's kitchen, waiting for the privilege of pushing the little orange button in the center of the plastic-wrapped block and massaging it into the interior, bland substance to transform it into "butter." Sugar, in great demand, was not missed by us due to a friend who kept us supplied with fresh-picked fruit of the season, but where, or where, did all the Jello go?
Just a brief mental jog brought me into my mother's room, as she physically bent over backward to draw straight lines up her legs, giving the illusion of nylon stockings, a very scarce fashion commodity.
-- Joanne Ciarlo, St. PetersburgWaiting for Father
My mother had three children and was pregnant with her fourth. She received $15 a month plus her ration books and tokens while my father was gone. Fortunately, she could sew very well and made extra money taking in sewing, as well as washing and ironing for people in the area.
When my brother was born two months later, I went to the train station and asked the caretaker to send the telegram informing my father that after three daughters, he had a son.
As we lived across the street from the railroad station, we would eagerly watch every train to see who got off, especially the servicemen. The saddest days were when the flag-draped coffins were unloaded onto the mail wagon.
The day my father came home, I was sitting at the window, looking to see if any servicemen were getting off, and when one did, it took me a few seconds to recognize my father. I jumped up, yelled, "Daddy's home" and took off running to greet him. What a celebration we had that night, especially since he had brought home a box of Hershey bars, which we had not had for quite a while!
-- Sylvia Fies, St. PetersburgI remember . . .
-- Riding my bicycle to various grocery stores in a 3-mile radius whenever my mother's network of spies informed her of the availability of a quarter-pound of butter being sold here, 2 pounds of sugar being sold there. Other items sought were minute amounts of cheese, meat, coffee and the suddenly popular cans of Spam.
-- Being placed in a line of 50 to 100 women leading to the hosiery counter while my mother shopped somewhere else in the department store. No matter how many times this happened, I always experienced gut-wrenching terror as I moved closer to the counter. What would I say when I got there? Fortunately, Mom always made it back just in time.
-- My father sharpening wooden phonograph needles.
-- The frustration of my father changing an unyielding and inflexible synthetic tire on the family sedan.
-- The top half of a car's headlights painted dull black.
-- Gilbert A. Ross, DunedinBlackouts and rationing
Fathers too old to join the fight practiced marching with a broomstick around the living room. They also were given hard hats with straps that went under their chins. It was their job to walk the streets at night when the sirens went off to check whether anyone left their lights on. Our curtains were drawn and all lights put out. They called it "a blackout."
I remember standing for hours in line with my mother, waiting for a book of stamps that were needed to take to the store. These stamps let the storeowner know how much we could buy. If no sugar or meat stamps were left in the book, then you could buy none. My job was to sit on the back stair with a plastic bag filled with soft white stuff with a bright yellow button to squeeze. I would massage that bag until all the yellow dye was completely blended into the white stuff. I squeezed every drop onto a plate. My fingers worked the yellow blob until it resembled "real butter."
-- Mary A. Bruning, Spring HillCigarettes in demand
I quit smoking when I was drafted at age 29. Every week, each soldier received one carton of cigarettes, done up in the usual khaki-colored, waxed-paper covering. It didn't matter what brand was inside. The Italians were paying thousands of lira for one carton. If my memory served me, it was 20,000. So this many lira translated into 20 American dollars through official Army channels a la money orders. Twenty dollars sent home to my family was a lot of money in those days.
-- Jack Swenningsen, St. PetersburgKindness remembered
I was a youngster during the war, having been born in 1938 and living with my father and mother in Barry, South Wales. Food was scarce and fresh fruit a rarity. One Sunday afternoon, my father and I went for a walk to the outskirts of the town where there was a camp for American soldiers. Surrounding the camp was a high wire fence, but we were able to chat with a pleasant black soldier who, to our delight, insisted on throwing over the fence to us three delicious oranges - probably the first orange I had ever tasted. What a treasure he gave us and we so much appreciated his kindness.
-- Graham Watkins, South Wales
[Last modified August 27, 2005, 12:36:11]
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