By Emily Armstrong
It was a Sunday afternoon early in December and we had returned from church and just finished having dinner. As was the Sunday custom in those days, my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin had taken the bus from Jersey City to pay us a Sunday visit. We always looked forward to that. We would either play outside, or, if the weather was not good, we would play board games inside. The older folks would sit around talking and Mom would start preparing a supper of hot dogs and German potato salad for us to have in the evening.
Pop and my Uncle were listening to the radio and a news bulletin broke in. The Announcer said that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. I remember my Dad asking aloud,
“Where is Pearl Harbor?”
My Uncle responded,
“I don’t know. Isn’t it around Atlantic City?
It wasn’t long before we all knew where Pearl Harbor was. That was the beginning of the Young Patriots.
Our country meant a lot to us as young people. We had survived the depression and now we would survive the war. We did everything we could to help the war effort. The older folks didn’t realize it, but we were all so sensitive, worked a lot and prayed a lot because even at a very young age the United States of America was our whole life.
The first thing I remember was getting a ration book. Everything was rationed, but as children we didn’t mind. We just couldn’t do enough. Coffee, tea, butter, meat, and canned goods, shoes, gasoline were all rationed. I remember Mom plying us with vitamins so we would not lose nutrition.
My sister and I slept on the third floor of the house. It wasn’t insulated, but was finished off with painted beaver board. For a short while, a burst of heat would come on early in the morning, but the room never got warm enough. Instead of complaining, I took my bath at night (it was a little warmer by comparison) and placed all my clothes on the Radiator in the order in which I would put them on in the morning.
My Dad was always first up and would holler up the attic stairs for me to get up for school. My feet hit the floor and jumped into the previously laid out clothes and then I would run downstairs, wash my face and go to breakfast. After breakfast, I would brush my teeth and head off for school.
We always walked to school and entered a very cold classroom. We read the bible first thing, said the Our Father, and Pledged Alliance to the Flag. The Jewish kids didn’t say the Our Father and the Catholic kids stopped after they said, “deliver us from evil.”
The rest of us finished the prayer to the end. A strong spirit of God and Country was affirmed in each and every one of us and no matter what we were asked to do we did without complaint.
There were always drills in case of a bombing raid. I remember we all prayed hard then.
We walked or rode bikes everywhere and would not have thought of getting into a car since gasoline was rationed. For a short time there was tin foil wrapped around candy bars and so we dutifully collected all of that and wrapped it into balls until they were big enough and put on the pile outside of school to be collected to be used in whatever way the government thought they could. We would go to every house and asked if they had any old metal that they could give us and we would take that to the pile. I remember my grandfather having an antique clock in his attic which he gave as a contribution and I brought that to school for the pile.
In those days, a child could go to the store and buy cigarettes and so often I was sent to do that for one of my parents. One day I came home with a pack that was all white and was told I had bought the wrong thing. I responded,
“No I didn’t, the lady in the store said “Lucky Strike Green has gone to war and that is why it is now a white pack.”
It was my job before dinner to take this horrible looking mess that reminded me of Crisco and mix it with a yellow pill. The pill turned the horrible white mess yellow and we were told that was what we had instead of butter. Still never a complained because it was for our country and our men overseas. I often wondered how much butter they got, but never resentlfully.
We also had meatless Tuesday and that always amounted to lentil soup with German noodles called Spaetzle and a glass of milk. It was quite nutritious and we really liked lentil soup so we didn’t feel that was a sacrifice.
We did hate going without Chocolate, but that didn’t seem to happen too often
We had family and friends that served in the war and wrote to those we could just to give them letters from home. When they found time they would write back, but wives and girlfriends came first. Again, we didn’t mind. We kind of new our place on the “food chain”. We also helped our parents put together care packages often using our ration stamps in order to do so and sent them to loved ones and church members overseas.
At school, our teacher taught us how to knit and so we made squares approximately 8″ by 8.” The teacher would take them and sew them together and then send the finished afghan to the Red Cross to be used in hospitals. That was a good thing for the wounded servicemen and actually for us because it started us out learning how to knit. It is something I still do.
One funny story I remember to this day. My Dad bought the first TV in our town. It was a small black and white screen, was only on about two hours a day, and all the shades had to be drawn. It broadcasted about 2 stations a day about 3:00PM to 5:00PM. It consisted mostly of a commercial on how to fight an incendiary bomb if it came through our roof. It went as follows: Man reading a paper in his chair and his wife knitting in her chair. Down came the Bomb. He yelled to her,
“Quick! You get the curtains and I’ll get the chair.”
They both proceeded to throw sand on the fires. Instead of us being frightened, we mad a a joke of it and laughed a lot; however, it did teach us how to put one out if it happened.
For almost four years we learned to put our country ahead of what we wanted and those of us who lived through it learned an extremely strong sense of patriotism. It is with me to this day and will be until the day I die.
There were many young patriots who in the course of time have now become old patriots, but we would still fight to the death for our Country.
Don’t let anyone try and take away in God We Trust because that is all we had then and In God we did trust and he brought us through it all.
I am proud to be an old patriot.