Even though I was only 3 when it happened, December 7th will never be just December 7th to me. It will always be Pearl Harbor Day. I think I remember it although it is probably a memory from family stories, reinforced by the fact that there is a photo of me by the radio on that day. Family lore holds that the next day my father went to enlist, but at 48 he was too old. He then tried to sign up to relieve a lighthouse keeper for military duty but could not pass the hearing test.
I remember many things about wartime, but what surprises me is that I don’t think I ever felt afraid. . Being an only child and treated as an adult, I was not sheltered from world happenings in any way, yet I did not feel personally frightened. It probably helped that, unlike today, I heard words and did not see pictures as kids do on TV today. I know that I went to the movies in about 1944, and when the newsreel showed Hitler speaking to crowds, my Aunt Maude covered my eyes with her hands so I would never see that evil man.
I was aware that the adults talked about battles and war and death, but I couldn’t really picture it and it all seemed very far away. Every noontime my Aunt Dot tuned the radio to hear Kaltenborn and Edward R. Murrow broadcasting from London with the sound of bombs in the background. I recall that we had blackout curtains on every window and that there was an air-raid warden who went around the neighborhood checking that every house was totally dark after the air raid siren sounded.
I knew that I had a cousin in the Marines who ultimately fought at Guadalcanal, and we prayed for him each night. Ironically he survived but his brother and sister-in-law were killed in the Cocoanut Grove fire of November 28, 1942.
There were many things that I recall from that period of time. We lived in Boston until May of 1942 and were there often in the years that followed, so I was aware that the gray dome of the State House was painted over with gray to reduce its likelihood of providing a target.
There was rationing , and I can picture the ration book and also tokens which were required for canned goods. Meat was one of the items rationed, so one day when my Aunt Dot checked to see what she would prepare for our lunch, she was surprised to see a beautiful piece of red meat in the icebox. She commented, “I wonder how your father got this?” but proceeded to cook it up. When my father got home he asked what happened to the meat which was actually horse meat he had bought for the cat. My only memory is that it had tasted delicious.
My parents saved newspaper, flattened tin cans, and even grease. The only thing I know about the grease is that they used it with lye to make soap. I remember that our refrigerator stopped running and you couldn’t get parts so from somewhere we got an actual “ ice box” until the end of the war. We moved from Boston to Medford in May of 1942, and because of the war we could not get a phone until late 1945.
I should have started school in 1943, but there was no kindergarten in Medford because of the war. Teacher shortage? In first and second grade, in the auditorium, they sold war bond stamps which you pasted in a booklet and when full redeemed for a war bond. I would clutch my quarter and stand in line to purchase a stamp. One day I dropped my nearly-full stamp book down a grate in the playground and immediately started crying. Luckily a kind custodian knew how to lift the grate and retrieve the book.
Although I don’t recall being scared of the war or personally threatened, I do recall that when news came of V-J Day, my little neighborhood friends and I grabbed pots, pans, wooden spoons, etc. and marched around the streets waving little flags and shouting, “The war is over!”
Dorothy C. Judd 2015 ©
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