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Random Memories of WWII

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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 1:36 pm    Post subject: Random Memories of WWII Reply with quote

Memorial Day brings back memories of World War II for me. Before the U.S. got involved, I think most people in Concordia considered it to be another European war. A few people even joked about the British evacuation from Dunkirk. The war in the Pacific seemed very distant. But things changed at the end of 1941.

I can remember lying on the dining room floor in front of our old console radio listening to the broadcast of the attack on Pearl Harbor and wondering what would happen to us. Following that was FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech and his calls for a declaration of war against Japan as well as Germany.

When I began the first grade in the fall of 1941, one of our required books was the German Fibel (primer). The cover of that book is shown in the photo below. When war was declared, we quietly put away our Fibel and no longer had any German language instruction in elementary school. However, we still sang German carols and recited German verses in the Christmas program. My first verse was “Sie fuerchteten sich sehr” (“and they were sore afraid”).

Everyone pitched in for the war effort. The women all planted large Victory gardens (although most already had sizeable gardens). Then there were the scrap drives. There is a nice clip of one drive in Dad’s movies at Scenes around town. Antique car buffs know that a lot of old cars and parts were melted down at that time. In the movie clip you’ll see an oldtimer walking off with a part he needed and managed to save from the scrap heap.

The Boy Scouts started regular paper drives. As we collected the old papers, we would look through them for discarded comic books. If we found one we hadn’t seen, we would save it, read it, and then recycle it in the next drive. It became somewhat of a comic book exchange program.

Concordia’s biggest contribution to the war effort was the start of a garment factory to build military uniforms. It started in the garage building between L&W Garage (Walkenhorst Motors) and Holsten Motors (later part of Meyer Motors). Many of the women in the area got jobs working at the sewing machines all day. Maybe not as glamorous as Rosie the Riveter, but equally important. A lot of the men commuted to the ammunition plant at Lake City Arsenal.

Then there was the rationing. One needed coupons to purchase things like sugar and butter. I can remember collecting the rationing chips when people came to buy butter at the creamery. Perhaps the biggest impact was on transportation. Of course, you couldn’t buy a new car because the factories were busy building jeeps, tanks, and planes. So, one simply had to keep the old buggy running. Gas and tires were severely rationed. Our ’36 Chevy had a sticker on the speedometer to remind us of the 35 mph speed limit to conserve gas and rubber. Tires had patches on top of patches. Any lengthy trip usually involved at least one flat tire.

The movies at that time were mostly patriotic themes, usually involving the war. Before the main feature, the selected short subjects would begin with newsreels showing the progress of the fighting. Even the comedies had a military theme. One of my favorites was “See Here, Private Hargrove” starring Robert Walker.

Even after the war was over there were continuing reminders. I remember one evening when we met at Uncle Bill Klingenberg’s place. He borrowed a government film that the American Legion had received and Dad showed it to the family. It displayed the atrocities at the Nazi concentration camps in gory detail; the starved bodies, the ovens, things like lampshades made from human skin. After it was over, we all just sat there in stunned silence.

Thankfully, that era was over but not forgotten.

German "Fibel' used by St. Paul's Elementary School, Concordia, MO until 1941.
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