During childhood World War II years
For me life was great during World War II. Dad didn’t have a job so he stayed home with me. Mother was a registered nurse so she worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. However, the closest hospital was out of our town so she only came home on her days off.
While Dad cleaned and charred ashes from the coal burning stove in one corner of the dining room, brought in coal to burn and stoke the fire for the next morning, I made pretend like coffee in my toy dishes. This he pretended to enjoy tremendously when he came in.
Tame soft rabbits were kept in hutches in our old barn that sat on the back of our two lots for food. My older brother would climb the worn wooden ladder up to the haymow, then call out, “Come find me!” He was never there. It took years for me (being four years younger than he) to discover that once I was on the steps he would jump down the coal chute to the storage bin below, then leave the barn.
There were lights out drills in our small town. Dad was the warden for our neighborhood. He told us, “Now when you hear the siren blow sit at the bay window after turning off all of the lights. Soon you will see me walk past the corner two houses away.” After the siren sounded the second time we could turn on the lights again.
I still have my book of stamp rations. Sometimes when I asked Mother to make some of her yummy cream puffs (which my brother called cream puppies) filled with homemade vanilla pudding or creamy chocolate fudge filled with black walnuts from Grandma’s trees, she would sadly say, “We’re out of rationing stamps. I will make you some when our next books come.”
At school we walked with our teacher in a straight line a few blocks to the local post office. There we bought savings bonds to cash in later. Bubble gum was scarce which to us at that age was a tragedy. Word quickly spread around the classroom when a new shipment was in at the grocery store. During lunch time we hustled to stand in line to buy our limited quota, then tried to make it last until the next order was received. At night we stuck the gum on our wooden bedpost to be used again the next morning.
Old irons were heated, then wrapped in bath towels to warm our beds at night. Tons of handmade comforts were piled on us in unheated bedrooms. A pot needed to be emptied the next morning in the outhouse out back, then turned upside-down to be ready for the next night. If I had a bad dream at night, I ran down the red painted stairs to curl up beside Dad’s back.
Those years brought vagabonds to our back door in the summer time. I would be swinging in my strong rope swing hung from a branch of the catalpa tree near the kitchen door. As I swung back and forth, sometimes one would come up our back sidewalk from the alley. “Will you go into the house to ask your mother if she has something for me to eat?”
I did just that. In later years I asked Mother why she always fed them. She replied, “There’s a verse in the Bible something to the effect of: Beware as you might be entertaining an angel unawares.” She always asked me to stay inside of the house until they handed back their dishes to mother, thanked her and left.
We had homemade soap for the laundry which was hung outside to dry even in the winter time. Water for it was pumped from the well outside which sometimes needed to be primed. Then it heated in a double boiler on the coal oil stove. My dresses were worn for several days to school until they actually had dirty spots on them. I always admired my teacher’s clothes which were changed on a daily basis.
Baking soda was used if we ran out of toothpaste, cornstarch substituted for baby powder, and cloves were used for a toothache. At night Dad and I sat side by side in the middle of the dining room directly under the overhead electric light. He read my library books to me for awhile, then read his own book while I read mine.
Saturday nights were hovered in front of the tall standing radio to listen to the western shows. That was also the time for the weekly bath in the corner behind the coal stove.
All in all those were very happy times for me too young to really be aware of what a war was all about.
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