Gail’s Early WWII Memories

On December the 7th, we were all shocked when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Now World War II was not just looming, it was a reality. Rationing became a way of life; my friends older brothers were inducted into the army, navy or the air force. All eighteen-year-old males had to register for the draft. Everyone was worried. My friend, Clyde Martin’s brother Ralph, who had been working at Boeing Aircraft in Wichita, enlisted in the air force.

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Scrap metal and rubber collected during WWII for the war effort. (photo taken at WWII museum in NH by Virginia Allain)

Life struggled on as we all tried to be patriotic by saving scrap metal and grease. We went on scrap hunts to find unused and abandoned metal. Sugar, meat, oil, gasoline, and rubber went on the ration list. Families were issued ration booklets to keep everybody honest.

War slogans became my classmate’s secret passwords, “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT” and we interpreted that slogan to mean we did not need any more studies; we wanted to help win the war.

 

Christmas was very quiet that year. Packages of home baked goodies were mailed early to our relatives, friends, and neighbors in boot camp or overseas. No one went any place unnecessary because of the shortage of gasoline and tires. My family usually had relatives come to our home for Christmas for lots of good food, togetherness, and exchange of homemade gifts, but not the Christmas of 1941.

wwii-ration-book

The spring semester dragged on and I managed somehow to get good enough grades to let me graduate. No one knows how worried I was about passing the 12th-grade exam. However, I must have known more than my teachers and I had every thought of. As long as I was not rushed or having to recite out loud I did well. This exam was a written test; anyway, I passed and attended baccalaureate ceremony and the graduation ceremony. Back in those days, we did not wear floor-length dresses except for fancy weddings. At least in the Midwest and in a county that was made up mostly of farmers and oil workers.

(emailed to daughter, Virginia, on Saturday, August 11, 2012)

The Christmas of Our First TV

Gail Lee Martin posted this to the Our Echo website in 2011. Here it is for your Christmas reading enjoyment. If it triggers some Christmas memories for you, please share them in the comment section at the end.

The advent of the TV in our home happened the first Christmas we lived on the Greene farm three miles north of El Dorado. This was in 1960 and Clyde had a good job and working regularly so we decided to get a brand new television for a Christmas for a present for all our six kids! We keep it hid in that old garage under some junk until Christmas morning. Clyde and I went out and brought it in before the kids woke up.

We had an end table to put it on and one of us had the idea that we ought to have it turned on when the kids got up. So making sure the volume was turned real low we turned it on. Now remember it was Christmas time and colder than blue blazes outside. Clyde and I were really excited as we turned on the TV on and snap, crackle, and pop the cold tubes broke as the hot electricity hit each tube. What a bummer of a Christmas this was for the Martin family as we hadn’t bought anything else for anyone. All they had was their filled up stockings.

But the kid’s Dad came to the rescue and wrote down the numbers from each broken tube and as soon as the stores opened he went into the Graves Drugstore on the west side of north Main and was able to buy every TV tube we needed. He came back home and replaced the burned out tubes and put in the new ones and PRESTO we had television to watch for Christmas.

I know it is hard to believe this but that was the way TVs were built back then and not every store closed even on Christmas. Totally different world 50 years ago.

Second-Hand Christmas Tree

(A Christmas memory by Gail and Clyde’s daughter, Virginia Allain)

Some families face a spartan Christmas, particularly if they are out of work. Thinking of that brought to mind a Christmas where the generosity of others saved our family from a bleak holiday.

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An earlier Christmas in the Martin home – Cindy and Clyde. I’m sure Dad made the rocking horse in the picture.

My dad had been in a car accident and was hospitalized for almost six months. My mother was expecting and with five children to care for, she couldn’t go out and work. It looked like there would be few gifts and certainly, money couldn’t be wasted on a Christmas tree when there was barely food for the table.

When our school closed for the Christmas break, my fifth-grade teacher brought the tree from the classroom to our house. Also that week, some kind soul left a box filled with holiday foods on our front porch.

It must have been a frightening and sad time for my mother trying to cope with it all. I’m thankful that the second-hand tree and the food brought some Christmas spirit to our home that year.

When I shared this memory with my younger sister, Karen, she said,

“I would have been 5 that Christmas. Don’t remember any of those things! That was in the days when kids weren’t allowed to visit in the hospital, so I remember not seeing Dad for a long time. The father of another kid in the neighborhood was an over-the-road truck driver–I remember thinking maybe that’s what my Dad was doing since he was gone for so long.”

May Day Memories

(post by Virginia Allain) Did you get a May basket on your door knob today? I don’t know if this is mostly a mid-western custom or if it is more widespread. Growing up, we made May baskets to hang on the neighbors’ doorknob on May 1st. We filled these with spring flowers from our yard like lilacs or daffodils.

The baskets were crayon-decorated sheets of paper shaped into a cone with a paper loop attached for hanging. I’d assumed the custom had fallen by the wayside in these days of cell phones, non-stop television, and reduced neighborly interaction.

Tulip Garden PostcardPicture Credit: Tulip Garden Postcard

Surprisingly, I found it’s going strong in small Kansas towns, at least in my folks’ neighborhood. In sorting my mother’s writing room contents after her death, I found several May baskets with the names of her neighborhood children scrawled in colorful letters on them.

They obviously pleased Mom, as she hadn’t thrown them away. These had paper flowers and some artificial ones. I’m sure these made the day brighter for my mother, to see the old custom being continued. Happy May Day to all of you.

Happy May Day to all of you. Mark May 1st on next year’s calendar so you can help your children or grandchildren make their own may baskets to take to elderly neighbors.

One of the May baskets that Mom saved.

One of the May baskets that Mom saved.