World War II

I am almost unique these days in that I remember World War II. Granted, I was a small child, but some of the memories are vivid even today.

My earliest memory is of the beginning of the war. A group of adults was gathered in my grandmother’s living room in her second-story apartment just off a busy street in Mullens, West Virginia. The grownups were anxious and kept shushing me as they listened to the radio. All I remember from the broadcast was an announcer reading a long list of countries which had declared war.

Early in the war, my mother and father were reconciled after the death of my sister, two years older than me, from polio. My mother and I moved to Oakland, California to live with my father. All the talk those days was about the war. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941, tensions of those living on the west coast went up—would we be next?

Shortages were severe. Gasoline, butter, sugar, canned milk, automobiles, tires, gasoline, fuel oil, coal, firewood, nylon, silk, and shoes all became scarce. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) rationed many items. My parents had to use OPA ration stamps to fuel my mother’s 1936 Chrysler Imperial coupé and my father’s 1939 Chevrolet sedan.

All the talk among adults was when the “duration” of the war would end. I remember that during the summer of 1945, I was away in summer camp when some news about the war came—I don’t remember what—that led to a wild celebration among the boys. For reasons I don’t recall, throwing dirt in the air was the way we celebrated.

More next time.

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