Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stuff I Learned As A Kid--Chapter Four

All the people were supposed to buy war bonds. We saw advertisements for war bonds everywhere: in store windows, in the newspaper, and before every movie we went to. It isn't that my sister and I were big movie goers in those days, but we were sometimes allowed to see an afternoon matinee of Tarzan or Gene Autry or The Lone Ranger. Going to the matinee meant we had managed to save twelve cents out of our meager allowance and sometimes it took me weeks to accrue that much. Anyway, that's where we saw full screen ads for War Bonds. Famous movie stars were always selling them to regular-looking people. I never heard about anyone famous coming to our small town to sell war bonds so I came to the conclusion that nobody in our town ever bought them. Besides, I never really understood what they were. Mom said it had to do with paying for the war. In my mind, I figured War Bonds must cost so much money nobody but rich people could afford them. I had no idea how much a world war cost, but I knew my  family didn't have enough money to pay for it. In fact, I didn't know any families who had enough money to pay for it. Do you suppose my fuzzy logic then is the reason I've always been so terrible in math?

The news is as important as breathing. At least in our home it was. Every evening, dad would lay on the couch and read the newspaper from cover to cover--literally. The newspaper was big then, not like the itty-bitty ones we have today and it took him more than an hour to read it all. Once finished with the paper, he would turn on the radio and we'd all gather round to hear Edward R. Morrow report the war news of the day. Most of the time I little understood what was going on. Sometimes there was talk about big battles or a ship sinking, and other things I didn't really grasp. Every once in a while, the President that everybody called FDR came on the radio to talk about how the war was going and America's part in it. Dad always sat right by the radio when the President was talking. For him, catching up on the daily news was as important as the air in his lungs. Do you suppose that's where I picked up the habit of  always wanting to know what is going on in the world?

Telling what you know can get someone killed. It's true. There were posters all over town that said so. I wasn't quite sure what "Loose Lips Sink Ships" meant so one day I asked mom to explain it. She answered that nobody was to talk about where their friends or relatives who were in the war were going or what they were doing. There might be spies around, she told me. So the signs are to remind us not to talk. That was the day I stopped telling anyone, even my friends, that I had an uncle in the war. I surely didn't wish anything to happen to him just because someone overheard me talking about him. How was I to know few people eavesdropped on little kids? The posters said to be quiet. So I was. Do you suppose having to be mum during those war years is the reason I eventually turned into such a chatterbox?

When every church bell in town and all across the countryside rings at the same time and it's not Sunday, something really important has happened. I recall the occasion with great clarity. Our family was sitting around the dining room table eating breakfast when I heard bells of every tone ringing loud and louder. I stopped eating and listened. I checked my brain to make sure it wasn't Sunday, then questioned as to why the bells were all sounding. My dad said it was because the war was over. Mom jumped in and declared that only the war in Europe was over. We were still fighting with Japan. I asked if my uncle would come home now and the reply I got was, "We don't know." He didn't. We had no way of knowing he was in the South Pacific. Do you suppose having such a close relative in the military during my early years was the reason I have always been patriotic down to the marrow of my bones?

Final chapter next week....

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