For most people reading this, World War II is an historic event that seems as remote as the Civil War. I hate to shock you—but I was alive during World War II. Not only that, I have memories.
Here are a random few:
Handsome men in uniform–including uncles and cousins.
This picture shows my Uncle Herbert and Uncle Bill Anderson, both navy men, and my cousin Frank who was the most glamorous of all–a fighter pilot in the Army Air Force. He was incredibly handsome and married an incredibly beautiful young woman. I thought they were movie stars come to earth in Ohio. The many war movies we were seeing at the Duncan Theater in Killbuck never had stars any more glamorous.
Blue Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers
A Blue Star banner with three stars hung in my Grandma Vera Anderson’s window, and Blue Star and Gold Star banners could be seen in many windows throughout town. Every mother or grandmother got a blue star. I always thought Grandma should have a gold one, because they were prettier, but I didn’t understand that to get a gold star you had to have lost a son. There was an organization of Blue Star mothers than grandma attended, too. The women found comfort together.
Protecting New Philadelphia from Bombs
I was not more than three when I begged to go along with my Daddy on his rounds at a Civil Defense Warden. It was a volunteer position, put he had an armband to wear over his overcoat sleeve to identify him, and carried a heavy flashlight, hooded and kept pointed at the ground, as he walked around the neighborhood checking to be sure no light shown out of any window.
Of course, people were also not supposed to be on the streets at night–other than the Civil Defense Wardens. So of course I wanted to be out on the street! One night I remember clearly, despite my young age, my Daddy relented and I walked alongside him, holding his hand, very proud to be the daughter of such an important person.
Remembering this scene now brings to mind so many of the things about World War II that were unique and that I have not seen repeated in my lifetime.
For one thing, it seems a little surreal that people actually thought that German bombers might be heading for the small city of New Philadelphia in Ohio, and therefore we had to keep the lights out when there was an air raid siren. (Most if not all were practice alarms, I am sure.)
Second, it is a reminder of how united the country was–how everyone felt they had a part to play in defeating the enemy and helping our troops. People didn’t just cooperate by turning out the lights when told to, they collected tin cans and newspapers, women knitted socks, men and women planted victory gardens so that farm produce could go to feed the fighting men, we sold war bonds at school. The whole country was fighting that war. And it felt very close.
I am happy to report that no German bombs fell on New Philadelphia on my Daddy’s watch.
Besides raising vegetables in the back yard, my parents experimented with raising rabbits. Daddy built a wood framed, wire cage that sat in the back of the garage. He stocked it with a pair of rabbits and they did their rabbit thing. Soon we had a cage full of baby rabbits. Of course, I thought it was a windfall of pets, but I’m sure that mother and dad had in mind supplementing the meat they could buy with their ration stamps.
I am not sure that my mother had the fortitude to kill the fluffy little critters and cook them. At any rate, the baby rabbit managed to escape the cage, and one day my parents got a call from neighbors asking if their rabbits were missing. I believe that was the end of rabbit farming at our home in New Philadelphia.
There are other memories–but I have to keep something for next year, don’t I?