It seems being a child during World War II established patterns in life that are hard to change.
Old newspapers were not to be thrown away; they were valuable to “the war effort.” In fact, many Saturday mornings I’d pull my wagon all over the south side of Sandwich, knocking on doors and asking if they had any old newspapers.
When my wagon got full, I’d pull it down to Jaffee’s Junk Yard, where Mr. Jaffee would weigh my bounty. He’d give me 10 cents or a little more, depending on the weight, and I’d have enough to buy a tiny Tangee lipstick at Hornsby’s Dime Store or a comic book at the newsstand.
That reminds me of the Luxury Tax that was collected during World War II to help pay for “the war effort.” It was collected on entertainment, jewelry, most anything that wasn’t a necessity.
Child tickets to the local State Theater (and the price of my lipsticks) were raised from 10 cents to 12 cents. Saturday afternoons were perfect for the younger audiences. There was almost always a cowboy movie, a cartoon, a short comedy feature like “Behind the Eight Ball,” and even a singalong, when we followed the bouncing ball along the lyrics printed on the screen. I can still see the movie camera lens shown on the screen and hear the introductory music when the world news was shown. Most everything was black and white; color was still in the future.
Once, I broke one of the rules when collecting newspaper. None could be found on the south side of the railroad tracks, so I pulled my wagon to the north side of town. I found lots over there but didn’t know where I was when I’d filled my wagon.
I could remember my dad telling me to look at the street signs. If I knew I hadn’t crossed Main Street, I was still on the west side of town and could walk east to find Main Street. It worked. I wasn’t lost. I took my newspaper-filled wagon to Jaffee’s, I was paid and went home. Can’t remember if I ever told my folks that I’d broken the rule that was Not To Cross The Railroad Tracks.
It’s still hard for me to throw away aluminum foil after using it just once. If I can flatten it out and there’s no holes, I’ll use it again and again. Probably got that habit because tin-foil had to be used over and over, then collected because many metals were needed for “the war effort,” too.
Nearly everyone had vegetable gardens and canned the harvest, even making and bottling their own ketchup. They grew and often preserved green beans, lettuce, radishes, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers for pickles, and lots of other vegetables.
They were called Victory Gardens, another part of “the war effort” because so much of the food was needed for the thousands of men who were serving in the Marines, Army, Navy, Army Air Corps and Merchant Marines.
Lots of things changed during the war. There were limited amounts of some foods and clothing on the home front. Everyone agreed it was far more important to make sure servicemen had enough food and clothing while they were fighting beyond the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific.
Everyone worried about their sons in the service. During World War II, those serving seldom got leave and mail was slow.
There were so many homes in Sandwich with little white flags with individual embroidered blue stars hanging in their windows and doors. Most had one star, others had more. In fact, my mom pointed out that our wonderful neighbor, Mrs. Francis, had a flag with five stars. Happily, they all returned after the war.
It was a time of townspeople working together, being compassionate, sharing, waiting and worrying.
Then there was great news! Everyone stood in their front yards, yelling, laughing, jumping around and listening to all of the church bells ring on V-E Day and V-J Day. What a joy! First the war in Europe was over and then the war with Japan in the Pacific.
Our boys would be coming home, many with wounds from battle, stress and other experiences, but they’d be HOME!
And I still can’t waste aluminum foil or paper.