Sunday, May 1, 2011

The War Years 1941 - 1945

The war Years 1941-1945

    I need to tell you some things about World War 2 as I remember that period of time.  I remember the day the Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  We had a battery operated radio in our house and the only time my folks turned the radio on was for the world news.

    My brothers Lawrence and Don had taken the 1941 Plymouth out that Sunday.  They were probably out on dates or just driving around seeing friends.  They came home about 4 p.m. on that Sunday afternoon and said that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor that morning.  I was 14 years old at that time and in 10th grade at Owatonna High School.

    The next day or the day after President Roosevelt made a speech to everyone in America on the radio.  I think it was a declaration of War against Japan and Germany.  The speech was in the High School auditorium and it came over the radio.  An assembly was called and all the students in school listened to that speech.  Our life as we knew it would never be the same again.

    My brother Don enlisted in the navy and was sent to boot camp at I think Great Lakes.  He  was tested and then went to a training camp in Pennsylvania.  He  was tested and he learned the Morse Code and later he was selected to be the radioman on the submarine Robalo.  He was also trained at New London Conn.  I have a picture of him and the whole crew of the Robalo.   The submarine went down the Mississippi river to New Orleans and went through the Panama Canal and ended up at Freemantle Australia.  The submarine either hit a mine in the South China Sea or a torpedo from a  enemy destroyer  hit it.  Three men escaped and were later taken as prisoners of war.  No one survived from that submarine.  The submarine went down between June and August of 1944.

    My brother Lawrence stayed on the farm as he was also eligible to being drafted.  Lawrence had a 2 C draft deferment.  There were a lot of farm boys with that classification as they were needed on the farms to help the war effort. I remember that the farm boys around Owatonna formed a 2 C club and they sponsored dances to raise money for the War effort.

    We collected bacon  grease for the war effort and it was turned in and I don’t remember what it was used for.  Everybody pitches in and the car manufacturing plant were making jeeps and tanks and Boeing at Wichita was making airplanes.  Every one that was able bodied begin to help with the war effort.   Josten’s at Owatonna was making the Nordic bomb sight  and they were hiring16 year old young people to work in their plant.  When I was a senior in High School some of the boys were working part time at Jostens.  Young people of 16 were also working as fire fighters.  I remember one young man that would leave school whenever there was a fire.  The fire truck would come by the school to get him.

    Within a short period of time we were given ration books.  They had small red cardboard coins that said O P A  and numeral 1  and red point printed on it.  I don’t remember how much meat you could buy with that but it also included butter.  My Mother bought a butter churn and churned cream for us so we didn’t have to use the OPA point for butter.  We also butchered our own meat and chickens.

    My father could do almost anything and I remember how they butchered a hog.  First you had to shoot it and let it bleed out.  Then you had a contraption that you fastened the hogs legs to and then you dumped it into boiling hot water.  You then had to scrape all the hair off and then you had to cut it up just like butchers do.  My Mother rendered the lard by heating it and then she stored it in a 5 gal crock. 

I don’t remember if she used that lard for making soap or if she went to the butcher shop and got the suet after beef had been butchered.  There was a frozen food locker in Hope and my folks rented a locker and stored chickens and meat and strawberries in the locker.  When they went after groceries they would get the meat out of the locker.  The locker was located in the creamery at Hope and that creamery is one of the few in Steele County that is still in operation.  Hope butter is really something else.  They have their own label and also they sell butter  to Land O Lakes.

    We also had gasoline rationing and you had a book for that.  The farmers got the best rationing books and they also were able to get gasoline for their tractors.   Tires were another thing that it was difficult to obtain and I think they were also rationed.  For you speed nuts that think 55 miles per hour is slow,  well it was the law of the land that the speed limit on highways for everybody was 35 miles per hour.  It saved our precious tires and saved gasoline.

    Other things were also hard to obtain.  Material for clothing was difficult to find as well as many other products.  My Mother made a skirt for me out of light weight curtain material of some kind or other.  New sewing machines were non existent and so older machines were reconditioned and sold to people.  Almost all women at that time knew how to run a sewing machine.  I learned at 12 to start making clothes on my Mother’s 1912 Minnesota treadle machine.

    We were fortunate that my folks had purchased a new 1941 Plymouth car and so we had dependable transportation.  My Dad also had a 1937 tractor and he had the plow and other attachments for it.  I don’t remember if he ground oats with that tractor  but I think that he did.  You had a belt that attached to the tractor and then it ran a small grinding machine.  We fed our cattle  silage and then we top dressed it with ground oats, the cattle really liked that in the winter time.  You planted a late crop of corn and did not let it mature.  Some one in the neighborhood had a silage cutter.  You  cut the corn green and then hauled it to the silo .  The silage cutter had long spouts on it and it put the silage in the silo.  The cutter was ran by a tractor.  The silos were about  10 to 15 feet in diameter and were probably about 25 feet high.   The silo had doors  and the doors had rungs on them.  In the winter you would climb up the silo and pitch down the silage.  Then as you got silage out you would take that door off and be on the next level.  Their was an outside chute on the silo and you would pitch the silage down it into a cart of some kind or other.  Then you had to take it to the barn and feed the cattle.

    I was young at this time and didn’t pay all that much attention as to what went on at the farm.  I was helping Mother and watching Dick and picking eggs from the hen house so was plenty busy.

    People in town also raised victory gardens and they canned the excess and ate very well during this time.  We always had a big garden on the farm and part of my work was to pull weeds out of the garden.  One time my Mother went down to help my sister Dorothy with her new daughter Mary.  The tomatoes were ready to be canned and so I went down into the garden and picked the tomatoes and canned them.  I was 15 years old at that time.  My Mother came home and couldn’t believe that I had accomplished that.    I had helped my Mother can tomatoes and peaches and pears so I knew what had to be done.

    I remember cooking for us at that time also.  I can’t remember what I cooked but it was done on the cast iron wood burning cook stove and maybe a little on the two burner kerosene stove that we used in the summer time.  That kept me out of any mischief that I might have been thinking about.
    I want to tell you a little about chickens now.  We always bought baby pullets to raise for laying hens.  We had what is called a brooder house especially for the baby chicks.  The brooder house was a octagon shaped small building and had a door going into it and then a small trap door that you opened to let the chicks out when they got about 3 weeks old.  There was a kerosene heater in the center of the brooder house and it had a large lid on it.  When you brought the baby chicks in they had a warm place to stay under this lid.  You took the chicks out of the box that they came in and the first thing you did was to dip their bills in some water so they could learn how to drink water.  We had little feeders with little round holes on the top of them so the chicks could eat the feed.  The watering jars were fruit jars which had a pan like contraption fastened to the top of the jar.  You filled the jar with water and then turned it upside down and the baby chicks could then drink the water.  You had to keep the jars clean and that was one of my jobs.  You checked on the chicks several times a day and removed any that had died.  You usually lost a few chicks.

    We also bought 100 roosters.  The funny thing was if you bought 100 roosters they were all roosters but if you bought 100 pullets you always got 5 or 6 roosters.  Roosters were not considered that valuable back in the 40’s.   When the roosters got about 8 weeks old we would start eating them.  My Mother killed the roosters by cutting their head off with an axe.  We then let it bleed out and then my job was to pick the feathers off.  You dipped the bird in very hot water and then picked it.  My Mother then gutted the bird and cut it into pieces and then soaked it in salt water for about an hour and then fried it.  We ate lots of fried chicken in the summer time.  We also took some of the chickens to the locker in Hope and then could  use them later on.

    Later on when I was working for the Supt of our High school, the art teacher who was an avid hunter brought two pheasants by one Saturday afternoon when the Burt’s were gone and I was taking care of the little boys.  Now I had never cut up a chicken but I heated up the water and got the feathers off the pheasants and then I had to gut them and cut them up.  I had watched my Mother do it a hundred times and  I just cleaned them up but didn’t cut them up.  Mrs Burt was so surprised when I told her about the pheasants and she asked me what I did.  I told her they were all cleaned up and ready to be baked.  We didn’t fry pheasants, we usually baked them and stuffed them.  They were real good eating.

    The other job that I had on the farm was to pick the eggs and get them ready to go to the grocery store in exchange for other groceries.  Some of the hens were mean and they would like to peck you when you went to get the eggs.  I just slapped them lightly on the head and then they wouldn’t peck you any more.  I brought the eggs up to the house and cleaned them with vinegar water if they were dirty and then packed them in the egg case.  I think the big egg cases were 12 dozen and the small ones were 6 dozen.   We kept the eggs in the basement in the summer time as it was cool down there.

    By the time I was 13 I was doing all the ironing for the family.  We had came up in the world as we had a gas iron.  You had to buy white gasoline for it and then there was a pump of the back of the iron.  It was so much easier than using the old sad irons that you heated on the stove.  My Mother hated to iron so the job fell to me.  She would iron the silk things and I would do the rest.  We had silk clothing and silk stockings in the early 40’s.  The silk blouses had to be ironed on low heat and the silk had to be completely wet when you ironed it.  Oh ,yes we had lots of starched things to iron.  You made the starch and dipped your clothes in it.  Then you dried the clothing outside  and then you had to dampen the clothing.  A coke bottle with a top with holes in it was the favorite way to dampen clothing.    Automatic washing machines and steam irons were a few years in the future.

    This is just a little more about life in the good old days.

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