We knew something was different. It never seemed the older boys in the neighborhood were around.
I was all of nine years of age when the United States entered World War II. For the next four years the world went gone mad due to the War’s destruction and loss of life. Of course, we didn’t understand what was happening. How could we? There was no TV, internet, social network to communicate, smart phones and other modern methods of communication. All we had was the radio and daily newspapers that never seemed to be caught up with the war news.
We went to the movies on Saturday to watch Movietone News or RKO for news of the war. They mainly used graphs to show the audience where our troops were and the fighting the fiercest. Remember, during that period of time the war was photographed with film that had to be developed. The movie cameras shot mainly black and white, had to cross enemy lines to be flown back to U.S. and then be distributed to the movie theaters. We will never know how much footage was lost due to the war zones or the film did not develop.
Amidst all of this our lives at home seemed normal to young boys and girls. We understood there was a world war but didn’t understand the impact of it on the United States. Somewhere among all this madness part of our youth was lost. There weren’t any older boys or girls around as mentors so we had to mature faster than the youngsters of prior generations. But, we knew that we had to help fight the war thanks to our schools, posters and when we went to the movies, at the end there was always a reminder to purchase War Bonds or saving stamps.
Despite the war, as youngsters we accepted the fact our parents were required to have ration stamps to purchase just about anything from groceries and clothing to some other products if they were available. I went with my Mother to Howland Grammar School to wait in line with her to receive her allotment of ration stamps. One of my memories was my Mother sending me to the local butcher with ration stamps and a list of meats if they were available with the admonishment not to lose the stamps. The mothers in the neighborhood traded stamps amongst each other to help with items they needed but didn't have enough.
Most families couldn’t afford to pay $18.75 to purchase a war bond with a face value of $25.00. So we purchased savings stamps at 25 cents apiece until the saving book we were given added up to the necessary purchase price. We then turned in the savings book to our local bank and received the War Bond. So that helped the war effort and allowed our government to pay for the war materials needed.
Now what I am writing is mixed with memories and the subsequent history of WW2. What I do remember was there were few cars parked on the streets of our neighborhood so we were able to play football or soft ball on the streets of Chicago without fear of hitting a car or being hit by a car.
Those days became a memory after the war ended as cars suddenly appeared and our streets were lost. It then became a distant memory of what it was like. As the number of cars increased, we were chased off the street by the returning veterans in order not to damage their cars.
My next memory of World War II will be going to Camp Henry Horner in Round Lake, IL and meeting my first Holocaust refuge at the tender age of twelve. That is one memory I carry to this day. Next on Chicago Then. Memories of WW II by a youngster.
Any memories of World War 2 you may have, let us know. They will be included in a future column.