Thursday, August 18, 2005

Apparently, there was a time when hardship united us

Every once in a while, one of my relatives will talk about what it was like to live in a time before I was born. I love hearing about the day-to-day stuff. Here, my Dad:

I was 6 on 12/7/41 and I can remember that something very significant was happening afterwards as my parents were listening to the radio. I kept persisting to be told what was going on and getting more anxious because facts were not forthcoming and my parents were clearly anxious themselves. I know I was finally told in terms a 6 year old might understand. Of course, I couldn't really understand, but I was reassured that I would be OK and satisfied. I was 9 when the war ended and it was a time of great rejoicing.

I grew up with used paper collections, metal collections, and ration books. We used to save used up toothpaste tubes and after a food or other can was opened and emptied, the bottom would be cut off and the top and bottom would be placed inside the can and the can was then stepped on to flatten it for better storage until the metal scrap drive came. School children were the main collectors of the scrap metal and paper and we would go through the neighborhoods with our wagons, knocking on doors. We had contests by grade as to who could collect the most, but of course the older grades always won.

Ration books were precious because you could not buy certain items, like meat, unless you had a ration stamp for each family portion. I can remember finding a nearly full ration books outside and owners address and name were in it. It was right in front of the house. So I knocked on the door to return it thinking whomever would be extremely grateful. As I stood waiting for the door to open, I thought maybe I would get rewarded with a dime. (A dime would buy a load of bread then) As it turned out, the book was no longer needed to buy food. Sufficient time had passed after the war's end to not need them anymore.

I also remember buying US saving stamps. As I remember, I bought one 10 cent stamp a week and would paste it into my special saving stamp book. The 10 cent stamps were red (carillon) and the 25 cent stamps were green. As I remember the picture on the stamp was of the Minute Man statue but I am not positive. I doubt if young people nowadays even know about the Minute Man, but we sure did.

Movies were a big source of entertainment back then. No TV you know. Admission was 10 cents for under 12 and 25 cents for adults (no senior discounts). Usually there were double features and between films they would show cartoons and a newsreel which usually started with the war progress before getting to the lighter stuff. When the Japanese or Nazi flags were flashed on the screen, almost the entire audience would boo and hiss and occasionally someone would yell out "Dirty Japs" or other heart felt derision. There was a great intensity of hatred toward the "Japs" and "Krauts". When a movie with a war theme played, there was a marine in dress uniform in the lobby to make it easy for young men to sign up for the service. There would also be collection plates passed through the audience and the funds were sent for the war effort.

We didn't have a car, but I know that rubber inter-tubes were very difficult to get and when a nail got into a tire, the inter-tube would be taken out and patched, then blown up and submerged in water to see if the leak had be patched well enough. Bicycles were the same.

There were no war protestors because everyone knew our freedom and way of life was at stake. There probably has never been a more unified United States than during WWII.

It is with this background that I look at where we are today. Since then, we have made tremendously strides in Civil Rights in a multitude of areas, some of which are still being fought. Over the long haul our country has become stronger and more unified as a result. But today, we are more divided as a nation than any time in my memory. Is there a just and unifying cause we can get behind?

My Dad, an American in Paris

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