1943 Christmas Gifts, Corsairs and Corn Meal Mush: Family Letters

It is getting closer to Christmas, and while Grandma is still sad, she talks about Work and about Christmas gifts and news of the family and friends. Although she probably did not know what exact end product she was working on, she was making Corsair fighter planes and work and homey Corn Meal Mush at home for supper.

The last letter was written on a Saturday, December 10.  She said she would write the next day, but if she did, the letter did not survive.

The next letter dated December 14, 1943, and postmarked the next day. The 14th would have been a Wednesday, a work day. It is a longer letter, so I have numbered my notes to correspond with the reference in the letter and added the notes after the transcribed letter. As usual, I have added paragraphs to increase readability.

[You can find Grandma’s mush recipe by following this link]

corn meal mush frying

Corn meal mush frying in a cast iron skillet

Transcription of Letter

Dear Harriette Paul and Bunny: —

Dad and I are sitting in room on top of the radiator. It is awful cold tonight.  Sure hurts after such nice weather.

¹I came home from work got supper which was fried mush, ham & beans and got up from table and went to bed until 8 o clock. got up and Dad helped me with dishes and here we are now. I am going to write you go and mail it and go back to bed as 4:30 comes pretty quick.  I have some cold tonight so will try and not let it get me down as tomorrow is pay day.

³Sarah called me and wanted me to go to Gerald Bushs and play Bridge for her tonight but I just cant and get up so early.  Her mother was here for a week went home Mon.

Bob told me the cut off was frozen over and there was a bunch of girls and boys going down to skate tonight.  I told him to get me a pair of skates and I would show them how to skate.

¹I must tell you how I rate at shop.  They transferred me over to Pre Assembly.  and it is much nicer and cleaner.  We make parts on jigs and then they are drilled.  They told Mrs. Bell and me today that tomorrow we would build them and each of us would have a man to drill them so it will be nice.

I must get some new slacks. I only have one pair and they are getting pretty thin.  I wash them and dry them in evening.

³Irene just came in for a chat and then went over to Lou Kidds.  She is going to take my iron down and see if Truman can fix it.

We are so glad to know Bunny is getting to feel better. Sorry you both are still having to be stopped up

³Sarah had a letter from Wm saying he was sending clothes etc home as he thought he would go into Secure last Mon. nite.  Didn’t know where they was going but a lot of tents on boat so thought must be somewhere it would be warm.  I am so sorry I was so in hopes he would never leave the States. I feel awful bad about it.

² I opened the box and just peeped at the lovely silver box but could not take any of them out until Xmas.  They were just as you put them.  Don’t believe one of them has moved. I closed it back up and wrapped it up again. Only wish you could be here to open it up.  It won’t seem like Xmas without you as I don’t remember when you wasn’t home on Xmas.  I heard some say we would work on Sun. before Xmas so we could have Xmas off. I would rather work.

³Haven’t seen Herbert since last Sat. as he has changed shift again and goes to work at 1 P.M. and I am sure can’t wait up on him now.

³I must write Will and Jean also Maude a Xmas letter.  I guess I wont send any cards this year.

³Sonny plays wonderful B.B. Plays on first team a lot. 2nd team hasn’t lost a game.  First team has lost to Big Prariere (can’t spell it).  Mrs. Morris has the band play at games and it was very nice as I went up here when they played B.P.  Glad you heard from Frank and Dean.

¹I worked Thurs. Fri. Sat and Sun at show.  I do all the drawing now on Sat. night now as Howard boy quit.  Bot helped me one night but he didn’t like it.  I don’t get a bit nervous. I thought maybe I would drop the capsule when I tried to open it but I just get along fine. One night the loud speaker didn’t work so I really did go on the air as Dad says.

² Well kids I am gong to send you some money and I want you to get yourselves something or go to good show.  I don’t care what you do with it. I just can’t get any where to get anything and you know what you want.  Get Bunny some thing and if I can find something here that I can send her so she will get it from the mail man I will.  It won’t be much but just some little toy etc., I think Irene is making her a dress.  I will also give Herberts and Bob and Sarah money.  Think Wm. will enjoy your Xmas to him. he always gets a kick out of those things.

³Irene tells me Isabell and Delmar haven’t been very well.  I will give them the book for you.  I guess they are looking for Marilyn home now in a day or two.

Well, I guess I can’t think of anything else so will go mail this, get Dad cig. and go to bed.  Many thanks for lovely box and will write you again before Xmas.  Lots of Love for you and tell Bunny These XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX are for her.  Write.

Good night

Mother

Never got your card until today the 14th. Where was it all that time? You mailed it on the 9th.

³Here are some gasoline stamps. They were Herberts to get gasoline for plane and he has more than he needs.  He said Paul would know if you could use them out there.  You would have to get it in a can and put it in your car.  Just like Sarah does for her stove.  He said if you thought you could use them O.K. if not you could send them back.  Don’t use them if they would get you into trouble.

Mother

They are worth 5 gal. each.

Weather

Like most letter writers, Grandma starts with the weather. She makes it more vivid with her description of Daddy Guy and she huddling over the radiator.  According to historic weather records, the temperature that day in nearby Wooster was 9° high and 0 low with a trace of snow falling.

¹Work

Vera Anderson was a hard worker. Always.  With her husband unable to work because of heart problems she worked more than one job. With the war job she had taken in a nearby town, her days were long.

In this letter she refers to work several times.

Describing her day, she tells us that she was so tired when she came home from work, she could only get supper on the table and eat and then had to to take a nap until 8:00. After she washed the dishes, she will finish the letter and will walk (In temperature approaching zero!) to the post office, a couple blocks away, and then finally get home to sleep.  Her nights were short, since she had to get up at 4:30 in the morning.

Later in the letter we learn that she has another chore before bed–she will wash the slacks and blouse she wears to work the next day and probably lay them near a register to dry.  She can only afford one set of work clothes, and washes them every day. As a side note, she apparently had never worn slacks before (not counting the baseball pants seen here) and Daddy Guy was not at all pleased with the idea of a lady wearing slacks.  This is one of those far-reaching effects of World War II–a change in people’s view of what is permissible for a woman to wear.

Building Airplanes

Vera is competitive and very pleased with the progress she is making in her job. She and another woman have been singled out for a promotion of sorts.  During World War I, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron Ohio had branched out into constructing blimps. During World War II they named a separate branch the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. One of their branches was in Millersburg, Ohio, the county seat of Holmes County, and that is where Grandma worked. By 1942, Goodyear Aircraft employed 35,000 people. Besides the familiar “airships”, they built the Navy FG Corsair fighter planes.  That means that grandma was probably turning out parts for a Corsair plane like the ones in this video. (The video is 11 minutes, but you can see the plane in the first minute.)

The “Show”

Her description of doing the drawing at the Duncan Movie Theater is close to my heart, because that was my first paid job.  Every Saturday, when many farmers and their families came to town, the movie theater was busy.  As people went into the theater, they would stop at a small niche in the lobby behind a Dutch door, and sign their names on a raffle ticket.  At the end of the movie that night, a person (Grandma in this case–me about ten years later) would turn the handle on a large wire barrel and draw out the winning name. I enjoyed being in the spotlight. Apparently my cousin Bob Anderson did not. The winners might get cash or might get pieces of dinner ware.

Like the wearing of slacks, Daddy Guy did not approve of this business of his wife getting up on stage in public and speaking to all those people and teased her about going “on the air”–in other words thinking she was a radio star.

Note that she works there on Thursday through Sunday.  That means that at least two days of the week, she is getting up at 4:30 a.m., working all day, coming home to make supper and then going to the theater (practically next door to her house) until at least nine p.m.

²Christmas

In case you had not figured it out, 4-year-old me had the nickname Bunny.  Irene (My aunt Irene Kaser Bucklew) was making me a dress.  We saw some of her talented needlework in an earlier article here.

‘Herberts’ refers to her younger son Herbert Anderson and his family of five children.

How I wish I knew what it was that mother had found to send to Uncle Bill out there in the Pacific! Something he would “get a kick out of”.

³Friends and Family

Names mentioned regularly in these letters include:

Irene (Irene Kaser Bucklew, my father’s sister)

Truman (Irene’s husband)

William (William J. Anderson, Vera’s son and my Uncle Bill)

Sarah (Sarah Anderson, wife of my Uncle Bill who was sailing into the Pacific.)  Sarah and their son Bob (a high school student in 1943) lived on the farm that once belonged to my great-grandfather, but later she moved in to town and lived in Grandma’s house.

Herbert (Herbert Guy Anderson, Vera’s son and my uncle.) His wife was Pauline, and his children who are sometimes mentioned are Sonny  (Herbert Guy Anderson Jr. a high school student in 1943), Romona, JoAnn, Larry and Jimmy.

Maude (Vera’ sister, my great-aunt, who lived in Buffalo, New York)

Will and Jean (William Morgan Stout, Vera’s brother, my great-uncle, and his wife Jean. They lived in New York City)

I don’t know many of the other people, but I have mentioned Delmar Alderman is a couple of earlier posts. Delmar owned the town hardware store where my father worked at one point. He and his wife Isabel were good friends of my mother and father, and my dad wrote to Delmar trying to convince them to join us during our summer at Mt. Weather in Virginia.

Miscellaneous

The town she can’t spell is Big Prairie, a Holmes County School that was a main rival of Killbuck High School in basketball. Basketball was THE sport in these small towns and the whole town turned out for games.

I love Grandma’s comment about how she’d show the young people how to skate!  My mother remembered her in younger days as the best skater in town. The “Cut-Off” that froze, was part of the Killbuck Creek that bordered the town, and had been used for ice skating since Vera was a girl.

William says his Navy Sea Bee unit is going someplace warm–indeed they did, as we learned in my profile of him as a Seabee. When she says they are going into Secure she means the term used in the last letter…the sailors are incommunicado for a time before sailing so they can’t tell someone where they are headed.

Bill Anderson, WWII

Seabee Bill Anderson on Pacific Island, WWII (Someplace warm!)

2 thoughts on “1943 Christmas Gifts, Corsairs and Corn Meal Mush: Family Letters

  1. Bro

    Vera as a Rosie the Riveter is hard to picture. Long, hard days for everyone back in the time when all pulled together and sacrificed for the Greater Cause. Thanks for including the Corsair film — Michael’s favorite W W II plane. He’ll be proud to learn his great-grandma had some part in the assembly thereof.

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      The irony is that she was helping the Navy effort just as her Sea Bee sons would, but I’m sure that she never knew what it was they were assembling at that Good Year plant in Millersburg. “Loose lips sink ships,” so nobody got the whole story on anything. And there was no cable news outlet yelling about “the people’s right to know.” It is also ironic that Daddy Guy tried to get a job at that factory before she went to work there. He was turned down because of his health. He would have made 60 cents an hour. I don’t think any of her letters mention what she made, but I’ll bet it wasn’t that stellar wage!

      Reply

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