Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The 40's

When I began this blog I did not intend for it to become autobiographical. Apparently that is what old ladies do. At least this old lady. Surely I can go on to other things eventually. But meantime...

The 1940's meant the war. My brother joined the Signal Corps and was gone for four years. Back home it meant ration books for sugar and bakery products - and for gas of course, but Mom and I did not have a car - and blackout curtains, and a star in the window - a blue star, and a prayer that it would never have to be replaced by a gold one. And V-mail. My brother's letters were designed to reassure us. During basic training he wrote of amusing incidents. He told us he woke one morning to find he was not alone in his sleeping bag. He sent a photo of himself holding up the 6' long snake that had crawled in with him. I thought that was hilarious. After he shipped out he sent photos of himself with pretty English nurses, and he complained about the rain. V-mail. I practiced writing very small so I could cram in as much as possible in the little space allowed. We got used to seeing his letters come with blacked out spaces where the censors had decided he was telling us too much about his location. He sent pictures of cute little Belgian children sitting on an army jeep, then told us that shortly after the picture was taken, a bomb had demolished the jeep. He sent a picture of himself high on a pole, stringing wire, and mentioned that it wasn't much fun up there when bullets were flying. To me, it just sounded like an exciting adventure.

We saw newsreels and heard radio reports. But it wasn't real to me then. I was nine - then 10 - 11 - 12. It only became a little more real when my cousin, Arthur, was killed in action. Still, the rationing, the blackout curtains, the V-mail all seemed more like a game. How fortunate we have been in the U.S. Even the horror and loss of 9-11 was contained in one section of our country. I do not mean to diminish in any way the enormity of that event, but imagine if you can, or if you dare, an entire country destroyed in that way. Imagine what others have endured. And wonder - why? - whose mind conceived this? - who was the force behind it?

Yes, well. I digress.

Perhaps it was because I was so young. Or perhaps because I lived with my mother, who never seemed particularly worried or alarmed by anything - partly due to her deafness, partly because of her sheltered upbringing and lack of education, and probably most because of her own nature. My mother was always quite sure that everyone had good intentions and everything would always come right in the end. She would wish it, and it would become so.

Everyone was very patriotic, evidenced by the singing of the National Anthem with great gusto before they turned down the lights for the Saturday matinee. We collected scrap metal and turned it in at school, for the war effort. One little boy in my class caused a bit of a flurry when he turned in a huge ring full of keys. It seems he had helped himself to them while his father was sleeping.

My school roster included a subject with the impressive title of Problems of Democracy. It never touched on foreign affairs, and I don't recall ever having my attention drawn to newspaper head-
lines at that age. And frankly, I don't believe those headlines would have given much insight. Our government saw to it that the public should not be led to any unpatriotic thought. It was very simple: The U.S. was right. The enemy was wrong. We would win the war. God was on our side. Would that life could be so simple.

Meantime my biggest concern was that I was entering Jr.High School. But that's another story. Enough for today.


Kitty said...

Nice writing, Mom.

It just goes to show what blogs can do for us -- I've never before thought of the words "exciting" or "adventure" when thinking about Uncle Bill...

It feels like there is even more here to unpack and write. That war. Those wars. The war. Geezuz, the freakin wars.

Ralph said...

Well, I'm not calling you an old lady because this is a great story as was the the 30's. Keep doing them - you have some great stories.