Category Archives: __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1950, age 7-8

Themes and Events
* At the beginning of 1950 our family ages were: Dad, Robert Pierce, twenty eight; Mom, Hazel May (Shafer), twenty seven; Larry, seven and a half; sister, Linda, three and a half years old.
* In this year, the U.S. population was an amazing 150,697,361, while the world’s population was 2.52 billion; and this in a time when no one thought in terms larger than a few thousand or perhaps a million.
* Antihistamines become available to the public and are hailed a new medical miracle.
* Diner’s Club introduced the first credit cards. Maxwell House introduces “Instant Coffee”
* During this year there were 49,000,000 motor vehicles on US highways, in 1960, just ten years later, the number had increased 45% to 71,000,000.
* Tax Freedom Day is creeping further and further into the calendar, it fell on 13 February 1930 and 8 March 1940 and now 3 April 1950. Tax Freedom Day is the date on which American workers get to keep all of their earnings, assuming all the money made before this date goes to paying federal, state and local taxes.

Good times in America, suburbia grows
A house building binge, that grew from the housing shortage at the close of World War II, created peripheral towns or bedroom communities around the nations major cities.  As our more affluent citizens moved, so did the stores and shops, thus creating a ever growing problem for tax supported services in the city.  As the cities tax base eroded, services were reduced and welfare and crime increased amongst the poor who were left behind.

Meanwhile, as the suburbs grew, a variety of new shopping and entertainment institutions mushroomed, including: 1) Shopping Malls, which were groups of stores usually anchored by one or more major national chain stores, i.e. Sears & Roebucks, Penny’s, Woolworth… 2) Chain Super Markets began to spread in earnest, eating up the small, neighborhood, ‘Mom and Pop’ stores. 3) Drive In movie theaters, where you could take the family, sit in your car and watch two thrilling movies for a little more than half the price of going “indoors” for a movie. 4) Bowling Alleys, where families, friends and “leagues” spent their Friday or Saturday night rolling the ball and chatting.
The ’50s were a good time for middle America.  Family incomes climbed, people found they had more time and money for recreation.  “Planned obsolescence” became a catchword; and while  automakers promoted it by changing automobile styles annually, women’s fashions followed with seasonal style changes.

Our family’s new Chevrolet
Mom and Dad bought a Chevrolet Deluxe, our family’s first new car. It was a two tone auto with black roof and yellow bottom sides. The model had two doors,  manual transmission and AM radio.  I remember the day Dad brought the car home and promptly took the family for a ride.  We drove from Coloma to Waterveliet, all the while talking about the car and looking out the windows with great pride.  My parents had this car during the years I was growing up and infact still had it, as their only means of transportation in 1963, when I was discharged from a three year enlistment in the Army (13+ years)!

The Service Station becomes a Gas Station
In the early 1950s, the personal service a customer received from the gas station attendant was very different world from the “self service” island gas station concept that developed in the late 1970s.
During the early ’50s, when a customer drove into a gas station, one or two  attendants, one who was usually the owner or manager, came hurrying to your car from the station office wearing in a white uniform and a cap..  While one attendant inquired as to how much gas you intended to purchase, the other went around the car checking tire pressures.  While the former pumped the gas, the latter raised the engine hood and inspected the oil level and radiator water level.  If fluid levels were low or if any belts were appreciably loose, or worn, the customer was advised of the condition.  Finally, while one service worker collected the bill, the second washed and squeegeed the front and occasionally the rear windows. That was ‘service’ and it was a service that was taken for granted, until it disappeared essentially overnight with the Arab oil embargo and the resultant gasoline price hikes of the mid 1970s.
Also, until the early 1960s, every gasoline station had a metal rack in the office filled with fanfolded, regional state highway maps. The maps were free to all customers.  By the 1980s state maps disappeared from the gas stations, after this they were found in book stores and later yet in “convenience stores”  for $1.50 to $3.00 each.

American heroes, 1950 style
The editor’s of Life Magazine invited youth nationwide to send them a list of individuals they admired most.  As an insight into the values of the time, the respondents listed: author Louisa May Alcot, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, song and dance girl Vera-Ellen, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, movie actor/ cowboy Roy Rogers, Army General Douglas MacAurthur, Red Cross founder Clara Barton, actor-singer Doris Day, sister Elizabeth Kennedy, baseball home-run hitter Babe Ruth and nurse Florence Nightingale.

McCarthyism: The Communist witching
During President Harry Truman’s term in office, a Communist witch hunt caught the mood of America.  Don’t ever believe such things can’t happen in ‘modern’ America.  People are people everywhere in the world, when group or national passions rise, ‘witch hunts’ and other persecutions can take place.
Joseph McCarthy, a Republican Senator from Wisconsin,  led American politicians on a broad search for “Pinkos, Com-symphs (Communist sympathizers), Reds (as in Red Chinese Communists), and Commies (Russian or East Block communists), inside our national boarders.  U.S. Government employees, scientists, teachers, actors, TV personalities, writers and even clergymen lost jobs because of accusations made by unknown informants.
The rule that a man was innocent until proved guilty was replaced by one that considered him guilty until he could prove his innocence.  All the harassment and publicity on radio, TV and on the newspapers resulted in a small number of people actually being “blackballed’ from their professions. The episode made McCarthy a famous public figure for a few years. Then, like other big news events, the witch hunt lost steam.  Television series, such as “I Was A Communist”, lost ratings.  Before long, people put the whole affair behind them. Today, this once vital and exciting chapter of American history, perhaps a little too conveniently, has been all but forgotten.

North Korean invades South Korea
On June 25, North Korean soldiers invaded South Korea. Tension gripped the Western world as the conceptual images of a one minded Communist Asia, sunk into the public psyche.

The Korean ‘Police Action’
In September, the United Nations recommended military action be taken against North Korea.  In September, US troops led by General Douglas MacArthur landed in South Korea. The Korean War or so called “Police Action”,  was begun. General MacAurthur was eventually successful in pushing the North Koreans back above the 38th Parallel.  He demanded that President Truman allow him to continue his assault and take North Korea. At this point, Mao Tse-Tung, leader of Communist China came to the aid of North Korea. (Image at right is the new F86 propeller-less jet, used in Korean combat.)

Finally, MacAurthur’s policy of trying to force an attack on North Korea brought him into personal conflict with President Truman, his Commander and Chief.  MacAurthur carried on his own political campaign trying to enlist Congress and the American people to back his view.  By doing so he overstepped his authority and was dismissed from military command by President Truman. At his retirement speech, MacAurthur told Congress and the American people, “… Old soldiers never die,  they just fade away.”
As a result of China’s tough policy toward the USA and our refusal to carry the Korean conflict to a decisive conclusion, the nations of Southeast Asia began to view the United States as a “paper tiger” while China’s influence as a world power grew.

Movies, 1950
Among the movies that the family attended this year were;
Broken Arrow with James Stewart, Jeff Chandler, Debra Paget, Will Geer
King Solomon’s Mines with Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Richard Carlson
Tarzan Finds A Son with (1939) with Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan
Winchester ’73 with James Stewart, Shelly Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1949, age 6-7

Themes and Events
* On 4 April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was officially formed, comprising; the USA, UK, France, Benelux, Italy, Iceland, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Portugal.
* An Air Force B-50 Superfortress bomber, the Lucky Lady II,  completed the first nonstop round-the -world flight, flying 23,452 miles in 94 hours, 1 minute.
* LP (long playing) 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM records go head to head at record stores, while the 78 RPM record becomes more and more out dated. * The first Polaroid Land camera goes on sale in New York. * There are now about 1,000,000 television sets in the United States. The department of Commerce determined there are about 90,067 movie theaters in 116 nations around the world with a seating capacity of 48.7 million.
* The minimum wage was raised from $0.40 to $0.47 per hour.
[The 1989  photo above is of Coloma, MI, Main Street. It’s an image that hasn’t changed (except for the automobile model dates) since I lived there as a child and walked to school along the sidewalk at left. Our house was-is on the left side of the street, about 3-4 blocks away.]

29 January 1949,  6 yr. 6 mo
“Larry lost his first baby tooth- lower right hand.”

Reminiscing about American history
Its interesting to look back on this period and see how the  American social fabric became ‘enriched’.  Until I was about eight or nine years old, I honestly don’t remember seeing any other races of people than ‘white’ and a few Negro’s.  Negroes were seldom encountered at school and when they were, they were always very poor and kept to themselves. Of course, in movie theater newsreels, we occasionally saw Indians sauntering around on their poverty stricken reservations, Mexicans, who lived in boarder towns of the American Southwest, and an occasional Oriental.  Putting some perspective on these times, prior to my birth in 1942, it had only been:
1)  30 years since ‘wild and woolly’ Arizona became a state;
2)  50 years since the last of the western ‘Indian Campaigns;
3)  90 years since Pioneers streamed west in wagon trains on the California and Oregon Trails.
By the 1940s, the United States had been settled and industrial expansion was under way across the breadth of the land. The United States had became a focus for immigration from all over the world, no longer just a European dream.
During the previous century, the  early waves of immigrants had ‘melted’ into the national fabric, the new immigrants, from Exotic lands in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India, Central and South America, and Asia didn’t really adopt our culture.
Negro Americans poured out of the old South into northern cities and to the west coast looking for jobs. Mexicans and other Hispanics streamed  north into the US, resettling and growing in number on the periphery of the ‘white neighborhoods’.  As the decades passed and these people moved around in the USA, fewer and fewer were opting to give up their previous cultural heritage.
Maintaining an ‘identity’ is indeed admirable, but in doing so these new immigrants began changing America, the very culture that they found so admirable in which to relocate. Their visibility and collective voices grew and changed dramatically during the last half of the 20th century. The United States did not become a better place to live as dissension between the racial groups flourished; each espousing their Constitutional Rights over every item of trivia, every slight perceived injustice.

17-21 July: Vacation to Niagara Falls
[Robert]  [Almost 7 years old] “At this time Larry and Linda took their first real vacation.  We visited Elizabeth and Bill (my brother) at Royal Oak, Michigan.  From there we traveled north to Port Huron to cross over into Canada on the Bluewater International Bridge.  From there we traveled across Canada to Niagara Falls.  The kids were not too impressed with the spectacle but were rather young yet to really understand.  From there we drove along Lake Erie then Buffalo, Cleveland, South Bend and home. Both kids were very good.”

I remember our family vacation to Niagara Falls quite well. The falls were an awesome sight to see. A large river of water pouring over the crest of the falls and dropping into rocks with a mighty roar.  A cloud of mist hung in the air amongst a jumble of rocks at the base of the falls.  We drove for a long time inorder to visit the splendor of Niagara Falls.  Yet once there all we did was look at the falls from a guard rail, we didn’t take the boat ride that approached the base of the falls for a close up look.  Part of the expense of the ride was the rental of raincoats, all of which apparently ‘cost too much’.  I really don’t understand why after making a 98% effort to get to Niagara we didn’t go the extra 2% for a truly memorable experience.

The fish bone story
One Saturday afternoon while the family sat around the dining table eating a fish dinner:  Linda and I carefully picked bones out of the fish on our plates, then chewed the meat slowly inorder to find and remove any other bones before daring to swallow.  Dad, seeing that we kids were falling behind in our meal, decided to give us a demonstration on “how to eat fish”. As we looked on, Dad speared a piece of fish on his plate with a fork and promptly popped it in his .mouth.  After only partially chewing the fish he swallowed and immediately began to choke.  With Dad choking and clutching his throat he and Mom jumped up from the table and quickly hurried out the door to the doctors office, where he had a fish bone dislodged from his throat.  As our parents rushed away, Linda and I sat the table looking at one another, smirking slightly to ourselves while continuing to smugly, but cautiously eat our fish dinner.
In the years that followed, whenever the family had fish for dinner, one family member would always point out how we should take time to look for the bones and chew our food carefully before swallowing, the warning was always followed by a little “choking cough”.  We never -ever-heard any more from Dad on the topic.

[The image above was photcopied from the birthday card given me by my parents.]

Memories of the Telephone System ,  1949
During the early years of my life, having a telephone in the house was considered a convenience, but not a necessity. If a person really needed to make a phone call, they could use the neighbors phone and pay them for the cost of the call. As it is in other times, one respects their neighbors privacy, so borrowing the use of their telephone was limited, as was receiving calls through the neighbors.
Soon after moving into the Shoup house in Coloma, Mom and Dad had their first telephone installed. Linda and I were admonished not to use  the telephone with out specific permission, not to answer it when other numbers were being rung, or listen in while our party line was in use.
Both my grandparents family’s,  already had telephone service in their rural home’s for several years.
It seemed that all we used our new telephone for was to occasionally speak with relatives and for very few local calls. Actually the phone was used so infrequently that when it rang in the evening, Mom and Dad would sit momentarily petrified, looking at one another and at the telephone, as one or the other said, “Oh ohhh. I hope it’s not bad news.” or “Oh ohh. I hope everything is alright.”, before rising to answer the call.
The telephone service industry, still in an early state of development, didn’t have the rapid communications capabilities that would follow in the decades ahead.  Factory workers didn’t have easy access to telephones at their place of employment so few phoned home. During the 1940s people seldom called to wile away the time chatting. When I was a child, about the only voices I ever heard on the other end of the phone line were those of my relatives or maybe the doctor returning a call.

This was a time when brown and blackish creosoted telephone poles and electric poles stood along the major highways and local roads throughout the country. The tall dark poles with wooden cross members supported from one to perhaps a couple dozen black utility wires.  The poles and wires, were seen as a sign of progress. They were satisfying symbols that spread from horizon to horizon across the landscape and came down the street connecting your house to the telephone and electric service.

Local telephone numbers were placed by dialing a number, often no more than four digits long; for example, 2486.
Back in the 1920s, during my parents youth, all telephone calls went through the local “Operator”, but by the late 1940s, local calls could be dialed direct. Telephone calls going out of the immediate area, but which were still geographically close, required an extra one digit prefix, i.e. 7-2486. All long distance calls were placed through the Operator, which was reached by simply dialing “O”. Besides placing long distance telephone calls, the Operator cheerfully  assisted callers in finding local numbers in her small telephone directory. Operator assistance was a service for which there was no charge.

The black cat story and nightmare
One late summers night, I  was sent to bed just as Mom and Dad were about to sit down and listen to Mystery Theater on the radio.  Though it was late, I wasn’t tired and wanted to hear the half hour program.  Cautious, so as not to make any noise, I opened my bedroom floor register and laid on the floor with my ear to the grate. The sound of the radio program filled the lower floor of the house and drifted up through the register and into my ear.
That night’s mystery story  was about spine tingling tale of murder and supernatural revenge.
As it so happened, a greedy person killed a friend for money. The spirit of the dead person came back to life in the body of a black cat.  This spirit sought revenge for the murder of its human body.  One night, the spirit-cat crept silently into the boarding house where the killer slept. It hurried through the dim light and between shadows, climbed the stairs and explored  the rooms on each floor until it found his room.  Then the black cat gently climbed onto the sleeping killers bed and crept toward his face.  Ever so gently, it laid across the man’s face purposefully covering his mouth and nose. As the minutes passed the killer was suffocated to death in his sleep.
With its revenge complete, the black cat sprung from the bed and leapt from the boarding house window. The cat was killed by a several story fall into the concrete alley below.  As the cat laid dying, its body changed back into that of the friend who’d been initially murdered.

During the next couple weeks I had nightmares about this story nearly every night. Street lamps  near our house cast the shadow of tree limbs on m y bedroom wall.  When I went to bed, I’d see the shadows. When I’d awaken from the reoccurring  nightmare, I would lay in bed frightened, watching the shadows for movement, a sure sign of imminent, malevolent danger.  Aggravating the whole affair was a stove polish advertisement I saw every day on my route to school. Walking to school I passed The Coloma Repair shop. And what do you suppose was set up for advertisement in the window, but containers of Black Cat stove polish which displayed a black cat.  It was bad enough worrying about that spirit-cat under the covers of my bed, then seeing it on the advertisement was too much. After a couple days I began turning my head and looking the other way as I walked past the shoe shop.

15 October: Starting piano lessons
[Robert]  “Larry started taking piano lessons with Miss Furmen. She lives about a block away.”

First bout with precognition
During Fall while attending Second Grade, I had an interesting precognitive experience. It occurred during morning recess. I was standing beside the school’s football field with a classmate watching  about a dozen Fifth of Sixth Grade boys playing touch football. The fellow I was standing beside pulled a pocket knife out of his pants pocket, opened the blade and began flipping the knife  to make it stick in the ground. I didn’t have a pocket knife of my own so asked if I could look at his. When he handed me the knife, I opened a couple of the other blades keenly interested in the can opener, bottle opener, and the smaller pen blade. For a moment I became lost in the experience of holding and looking at the knife.
A commotion on the football field brought back my attention and made me look up. Out on the field, the football was being carried by a boy, members of the other team were running diagonally across the field to stop him. Suddenly, I knew that the boy who was being chased  would bump into me and that I’d be cut by the knife. It was as not as though someone told me what would happen. I experienced the moment of impact before it happened: There was the inevitable mental state of confusion from being knocked off balance, loosing my footing and the pinch on my finger.
With a forewarned sense of disaster and the event still unfolding, I rapidly began folding down the knife blades. Just as the large blade was being closed, the boy running with the ball was pushed across the side line and bumped into me. My finger got caught  between the handle and the closing blade, and pinched me from the impact. I reeled backwards, dropped the knife and ran toward the school crying.
I ran across the playground looking at my finger then looking up at the school, running and crying, clutching my right index finger with my left hand. As I ran, I became aware of the fact that I was barely bleeding, my finger hurt more from squeezing it than from being slightly cut. I was scared and confused by the whole affair, because I knew I would be bumped and cut before it actually happened. I knew that  you can’t know things before they happen, things weren’t suppose to work that way.

14 November: Progress on the piano
[Robert]  “To date Larry has had five lessons and Miss Furmen says he does exceptionally well.  He is her youngest pupil by three grades.  (Larry is now in Second grade).  Hazel is learning to play also and no doubt the tremendous help she gives Larry shows up while playing for his teacher.  We bought a awfully good piano for only $25.00.”

Movies, 1949
Amongst the movies I remember the family seeing this year were;
Samson and Delilah with Victor Mature, Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, Angela Landsbury
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon with John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen, John Agar
The following two Tarzan movies were in rerun at the Loma theater in Coloma:
Tarzan, The Apeman (1932) with Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Neil Hamilton
Tarzan and His Mate (1936) with Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, Neil Hamilton
Twelve O’Clock High with Gregory Peck, Richard Anderson, Lawrence Dobkin

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1948, age 5-6

Themes and Events
* Television’s first Western series, “Hopalong Cassidy”, and “The Lone Ranger” herald the horse opera. * CBS/Columbia Records introduces the 33 1/3 RPM long playing record. Each side plays for twenty three minutes, compared to four minutes for the standard 78 RPM record.
* The new era of convenience foods begins with General Mills and Pillsbury’s introduction of prepared cake mixes.
* The MacDonald brothers begin to franchise their name for hamburger stands, and Baskin Robbins ice-cream comes into being with the merger of two smaller chains.
* China, the worlds most populous country, was engulfed in  civil war.  Nationalist, Chiang Kai-shek, and Communist, Mao Tse-tung, led opposing factions of the Chinese people.  Their armies fought in battles that moved north and south across the country.  In late 1940s Chiang Kai-skek lost and retreated with his army and followers to Taiwan Island.  During the following years, the Chinese living on Taiwan and several other small, neighboring islands off the coast of China, became known as the Nationalist Chinese.  The United States and other Western countries treated the Nationalists like the official government of China.  Mainland China with the overwhelming bulk of the population and a Communist government were negatively referred to as “Communist China”.  Communist China was diplomatically and economically treated like a nonentity by Western nations.  A wall of mystery and secrecy sprung up around Communist China, and was referred to as the, “Bamboo Curtain”, by the news media, popular press and politicians.

My tonsillectomy
[Robert]  “Larry had his tonsils removed in January ’48 by Dr. Reed in Watervliet (Michigan). They were very bad.”
My tonsils were removed at the doctor’s office, where there were facilities for minor surgical procedures.  Note, we’re talking about a small town doctor with equally small facilities! There were only three rooms that I saw in the office; the reception room- office, a combination examination and operating room and a small closet sized, one bed recovery room.
When we arrived at the doctor’s office, Mom and I were ushered into the recovery room where I was instructed to remove my clothes and put on a hospital gown.  The drafty thing was oddly open down the back.
A few minutes later I was shown the way into the operating room, set on the examination table and told to lay down. I had no idea what was going on. While laying there and looking around, I saw the doctor pour something he called “ether” on a wash cloth. He came around behind my head and held the rag over my face.  I didn’t like the smell of the ether and the wash cloth was blocking off my vision.  In a moment, I panicked and grabbed at his hand, trying to dislodge it from my face.  The doctor called his nurse and an assistant to help hold my arms and legs down…
Some time later, I awoke, sick to my stomach.  The operation was over, but I felt terrible.  As I laid on the recovery room bed, a nurse came in to check on me and found  I was awake.  She left and a moment later, Mother came in to sit on the bed beside me. Mom comforted me by saying, “When you have your tonsils removed, you get to eat all the ice-cream and Jell-O you can.”  That news helped salve the terror I had recently experienced and the nausea I’d awaken with.
All these years later, the memory of my vision being blocked off, of those strangers pouncing on me -grabbing my arms and legs, the sounds of my own muffled cries, the struggling and fighting to be free – they’re all still with me; the images are like dim motion pictures that reside deep, down in seldom visited mental archives.

The Shoup house in Coloma
[Robert] “In June we moved into the Shoup house in Coloma, Michigan (only a few miles from Smazick’s Resort) and this is where Larry spent his sixth birthday.  Larry and Linda have a large yard all around the house, and a large playroom inside.  There are lots of Southerners kids around here, but only a few are good kids.  One of them was called “Max’.  He moved to Benton Harbor in the winter of 1948.”
The Shoup house was owned by “old Mr. Shoup”, who lived across the street and a block south.  It was located on the north side of town about two blocks north of the railroad tracks, on the west side of Paw Paw Street, the main north-south street through Coloma. The address was:

238 North Paw Paw Street, Coloma, MI

This was the first big house we lived in.  The old, two story, white house had nine rooms.  When we first rented the house, the lawn was almost knee high on my Dad. He hired some one to scythe the grass before he was miraculously able to get the lawn under control with a rotary “push mower’.
[See image above: A photo of the house taken in 1989, 41 years after we lived there; new power poles, trees have aged, otherwise looks the same as I remembered from childhood.]

The interior of the house was laid out as follows: Immediately inside the front door was the entryway cubicle.  A door opened to the right leading into an empty room we used as a play room of sorts.  During winter months its registers were closed so the room was too cold to play in without first bundling up. Directly infront of the front door was a rather narrow flight of stairs that led up to the second story bathroom and bedrooms.  Walking to the left from the front door, one entered a large dining room with a old reddish colored Oriental rug covering much of  the hardwood floor. The dining room had a wood/coal potbelly stove and our dining table.  Off this room, toward the front of the house, was the front room. Walking through the dining room toward the back of the house one entered the kitchen. Along one wall of the kitchen was a door leading to the basement.  Another door led to an enclosed back porch where there was a coal bin, coal furnace and small bathroom (toilet only).
Going back to the front door: Upon climbing the stairs, one came to a landing which extended toward the front of the house. Immediately to the right, above the kitchen, was the main bathroom, with a white porcelain tub, small sink and medicine cabinet and toilet.  Walking down the landing with the stair well on the left, the first room encountered on the right was Linda’s and my bed room.  Being a two year old baby at the time, Linda slept in a crib.  I had a ‘single’ size bed along one wall, near the window.  At the very end of the landing and overlooking the front of the house, was my parents corner bedroom.

In earlier days, when we lived in the Berwyn, IL apartment, our living space was heated by steam radiators so it was always toasty warm during the winter. The rental at Smazick’s Resort was attached to the main house and I suppose because of this we had a good supply of heat from the Smazick’s. The Shoup house was different!  It had a furnace in the enclosed back porch and a old potbelly stove in the living room. Talk about cold!  During the winter, going to bed was torture.  Even though I slept in flannel pajamas, and had a pile of blankets on my bed, those ice cold sheets sapped the heat right out of me. At bedtime, I use to jump into bed and curl up in a tight ball under the covers shivering. After a few minutes it began to warm up enough to poke ones head out for air. With in five to ten minutes it became warm and comfortable beneath the covers.
Each room on the second story had a floor register, located in the center of the room. During the winter the registers were opened, allowing warm air to rise from the main floor into our bedrooms; still, the bedrooms remained cold.   Thinking about the cold now, I seriously believe that of all the expanding common conveniences in personal comfort made over the last 70 years, forced air heating and central air-conditioning are by far the best.

Memories of small town social interactions
Several paragraphs earlier in this text, I quoted Dad as he pointed out that in our new neighborhood, “…There are lots of Southern kids around here….”  Reread in 1991-1995 that statement sounds odd and a bit prejudicial, but it had a definite, well understood meaning to the residents of 1948.  Some “Southerners” came North seeking jobs and a better way of life; others, mostly white migrant workers, were “up” just to pick fruit during the harvest season.  It had only been seventy years since the Civil War and there was still some animosity in small town America.  At the time, the term “Southerner” was used derogatorily in general reference to the “White trash” who’d moved North from the South. Southerners  were considered less educated, rootless, bad mannered, poorly dressed, troublemakers and they lived in rundown houses.
Social ranking in Coloma at the time seemed to be as follows; 1) white business owners and professionals, 2) white working class, 3) Southerners, this classification had two categories as in ‘good ones’ and ‘white trash’, finally, the 4) Negroes.

The Taylor family
A block from our house lived a Southern family, with a boy my age named Toby. The father had left the family some time before we moved to Coloma. Toby’s mother worked to support the family, which consisted of an older sister named, Elsie, and a older brother named, Darrel.  Toby and I became friends. We often played with my toy cars in the sand box behind our house. I didn’t really see any difference between him and myself except that he pronounced a few words rather funny and his clothes were a bit more shabby.
One day while I was playing at Toby’s house, the “ice man” arrived bringing a large block of ice for their icebox. Toby showed me the inside of the icebox.  Lo!  There was a compartment for the ice. Butter was kept right next to the ice to keep it cool, a bottle of milk and a few vegetables were kept in the box as well. I recalled a couple years earlier when an iceman had delivered ice to our ice box at the Berwyn apartment. He carried the ice up stairs with a large pair of metal tongs.  The heavy rectangular block of ice rested on a leather pad which he wore over his shoulder.  During the last few years I had forgotten about our old ice box, we had a refrigerator by this time and I thought everyone else did too.

For some reason that I never understood, Toby’s older brother, Darrel. Darrel took a disliking to me and turned into a bully.  Every once in a while, he would chase me home from school.  Occasionally, the chase would end up with us having a rock fight, that is to say, throwing rocks at each other.  Darrel became a predator whom I always watched out for. He never caught me and never had the opportunity to beat me up as he threatened.
Several years later, when our family was living in Arizona, grandmother Elsie, wrote me a letter.  She informedme that Darrel had recently been at Paw Paw Lake swimming with friends. Immediately after lunch, with a mouthful of food, Darrel dived off the dock into the water.  He was chewing a piece of biscuit at the time and the activity caused it to lodge in his throat. He choked to death.  Recalling the torment he’d caused me for so long, I saw his demise as a just reward, a payment come due. Now, some 50+ years later, I’m just sad that the boy couldn’t have lived out a full life.

Hobo jungle
About two blocks from our house were rail road tracks that bisected Coloma’s Main street. The tracks came out of the farmland, crossed through town and went off through the woods. Over the next year or so after we moved to Coloma, Toby and I occasionally explored down the tracks perhaps a quarter mile where they went back into the woods. Ever so often we found and took home pieces of coal which had fallen off the trains coal  cars. Mostly though we went down the tracks to see if there were any hobos living in the ‘hobo jungle’.
As the tracks went out of town, they skirted along the top side of a wooded hill. In a bowl shaped depression amongst the trees, downhill from the tracks, there could occasionally be seen several hobos sleeping or cooking over small campfires. When we saw hobos in the jungle, we’d sneak up, and each throw four or five rocks down the hill at them, then run as fast as we could for town, imagining, but not really sure whether or not they were trying to catch us. None ever did chased us, but for our six or seven year old selves, the ‘dare and do’ was great excitement.

The Berlin Blockade: 24 June 1948
At 6:00AM on this eventful day, Soviet Russia’s armed forces closed all roads to Berlin, Germany. This was done in an attempt to drive her World War II allies, Britain, France and the USA, from the divided city. The Allies responded by organizing an airlift to West Berlin which was maintained until the blockade was lifted in May 1949.

Starting First Grade
This fall I started First Grade at the Coloma Elementary & High School.  The school educated all grades from First through Twelfth. My teacher was Mrs. Lyons, a very nice, elderly woman.

Speaking of school, Dad writes in my Baby book:
[Robert]: “Larry likes her immensely, she’s a very good teacher.”
[Robert]:  “After several weeks of school the teacher placed one of Larry’s colored drawings on the board.  It is a picture of a boy coasting along in a wagon.  After a 1/2 year of first grade Larry seems to be doing very good.  His ‘work book’ is very good and his reading seems to be about the same.  He loves school and seems to have caught on quickly.  So, missing kindergarten wasn’t too hard on him.”

The ‘Turkey War’
Grandma and Grandpa Pierce usually raised two or three hogs for household consumption. When I was quite small they also had a cow for milk, but sold her after a couple of years.  As I recall, they’d use some of the milk for themselves and fed the rest to the hogs. Usually they had thirty to forty chickens which provided meat and eggs for themselves and the sale of eggs to neighbors and friends. This year they got rid of the chickens and tried raising turkeys for a couple years.
One weekend when we were visiting the farm, I was outside playing and threw a rock at, and hit a large white Tom turkey. The turkey was apparently angered because he started running at me and chased me inside through the back door. I ran upstairs, through the house and sneaked out the front door to get around behind him. Quickly, I picked up another rock with intentions of teaching that turkey a lesson, but no sooner did he see me, when he lit out after me in full pursuit. This kept up for sometime, with me alternately sneaking out the front then back door. What had initially been exciting soon became a siege, with my being afraid to go outside.  When Grandma found out why I wasn’t playing outside, she called Grandpa and stated we were having turkey for dinner the next day. Soon thereafter, Grandpa and I went outside to feed the turkeys, on our way to the coop he left a hatchet laying on the flatbed tractor trailer.  I pointed out the troublesome turkey and when they began to feed, Grandpa grabbed ‘Tom’, took him over to the trailer and chopped off his head. Never having seen anything slaughtered before, I gasped and stood frozen, mouth agape and in a bit of shock as the now headless turkey’s body, briefly ran a few steps, tripped, hopped, while spewing blood, and flopping about, then keeled over.
In moments, the bird was history. Grandpa took the turkey in the basement, soaked him in hot water and began pulling his feathers. The next afternoon just as Grandma had promised, we had roasted turkey and that was the end of ‘The Turkey War’.

Clothing Styles During the 1940s
Clothing styles have changed dramatically in the last forty years.
During the 1940s, everyone wore leather shoes.  Men and children wore brown or black oxford style, lace up shoes. I don’t remember the styles worn by women. The only other type of shoe I remember were, PF Flyers, a black and white tennis shoe. The only people that wore tennis shoes were basket ball players and kids during Gym class. Tennis shoes were cheaper than leather shoes, but didn’t last very long.  If you saw someone wearing tennis shoes on the street, you could be fairly certain they were on their way home from a sporting event or they were poor and unable to afford “real shoes”.
Clothing was non-legible. Men and boys only wore their T-shirts under an outer shirt, not as a shirt in themselves.  Women were never seen wearing men’s T-shirts.  As a child the only people I ever saw with words or pictures written on their clothing were professional baseball and football players.  It seems that clothing became legible and arty following the Hippie social revolution,  a style that developed in the late 1960s to  mid 1970s.
As a child, I don’t recall men wearing hats, other than in the  winter, unless they were business men in the city or were dressed up for a special occasion.  Women wore hats with netting for special occasions and church.  Amongst the netting on their hats there were often such decoration as feathers, cloth flowers and later, fake fruit.
When a man was dressed in a suit, the occasion called for him to wear a small brimmed felt hat with a front to rear crease in its crown. The only people I recall wearing a baseball style cap were of course professional players, an industrial companies baseball team, a farmer, and men working for the railroad.
The ‘one-size- fits-all baseball style caps’ became very popular during the 1980s.  In the early to 1990s it became common for such people as high school and college students to wear these hats backwards, so that the visor covers their neck instead of shading their eyes.  The  cap is being worn with the bill cantilevered at an angle off to one side of the head as if “locked into position”.  These hats are frequently seen sporting supposedly cute statements or advertising slogans.  No one with any class wore baseball style hats, leaving them essentially to the domain of the working class, some ‘nere do well’ males in high school, college and Negro ghettos. By the turn of the Millennium, the ‘baseball cap’ had become a retro fashion statement where everyone , even the rich and famous occasionally wearing one inorder to identify their solidarity with the masses.
In the 1940s, men and boys wore pants that were rather loose, perhaps even slightly baggy. The pants had belt loops and straight legs that terminated in cuffs. They were made of cotton fabric and came in solid subdued colors, ie. brown.  The style was less that of blue denim jeans and more what we now refer to as dress pants.  Belts were of black or brown leather. Those I remember having as a child had a metal buckle with swivel tang at one end and a metal tip at the other. The belt was either plain or had a motif, often western, stamped into the leather.
As a child I don’t remember seeing a woman wear pants, blue jeans or peddle pushers. Women, it seems, always wore a skirt and blouse combination, or a dress.

Chicken pox
[Robert] “Larry and Linda both had the Chicken Pox.  Linda’s first appeared on Nov. 11, 1948 and Larry’s came the next day.  Larry was out of school 3 weeks although both kids had light cases of them.”
Why do I remember the day I came down with Chicken Pox? It was my first lesson in poetic justice.

That morning, my sister Linda was laying on the couch. I sat down beside her, inspecting the little rash that was breaking out all over her face. She didn’t seem too sick, so I began ribbing her. Although the exact words used have long since been forgotten, she and I both remember my saying something to the effect, “I can’t catch Chicken Pox. I’m, too big!!”
Linda strained, lifting her head off the couch a little and looked at me closely, then said,
“You have Chicken Pox too. You have spots on your face too.”
I laughed and corrected her, “No, not me. Chicken Pox are afraid of me.”
A moment later, Linda called out aloud“Mom! Look at Larry”.
I still  had a smirk on my face when Mom announced in all seriousness, that I too was infected I thought she was on Linda’s side and was joking me, but after a run to look the bathroom mirror, I returned deflated.
Points worth remembering: Never say, “It can’t happen to me”. Never gloat, even a little, over someone else’s misfortune. And always remember, ‘What goes around, comes around’.

I recall that early during our infection, the doctor stopped at our house.  He sat on the edge of the couch fumbled around in his black bag of instruments for tongue depressors, then inspected both Linda’s and my throat and. He listened to our breathing with a stethoscope and felt the glands in our necks. The doctor told Mom to keep us in the house, laying down and away from other children. I’m not sure, but think he even had a quarantee sign hung on our front door for a few days.
While we lived in Coloma, an occasional illness would bring the doctor and his black bag to our door.  After about 1950, the practice of a doctor making ‘house calls’ seemed to vanish.  I’ve never seen or heard of a General Practitioner doctor visiting his clients at home since.

Winter: Shoveling the neighbors snow
[Robert]  “Larry likes to help mow the lawn and rake leaves.  In the winter he even clears the snow off the neighbors walk but not ours.”

The “neighbors” whom Dad mentioned were a very elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Stark’s, who couldn’t walk very well.  I shoveled the sidewalk to their front door a couple times, simply because I knew they were old and barely capable doing it for themselves.

 Christmas: Santa comes to our house!
[ 6 years 5 mo of age] [Robert]  *On Christmas Eve I borrowed a Santa Claus suit and dressed up in the riggings. Put flour in my eyebrows and around my cheeks.  Larry’s mother took Larry and Linda to the Drug Store for ice-cream while I dressed up.  Grandpa Shafer was here and meanwhile, Grandma Elsie, [Uncle] Jack and [Aunt] Julie listened to the little scene over the phone.  When Mommy and the kids came home I went out the rear door and came in the front door with bells ringing. We had all the lights off in the house except the Christmas tree lights so Larry wouldn’t recognize me.  I brought a bag of gifts to them. Larry got a revolving six shooting pistol and holster, tool kit outfit (to save mine), lunch basket (he adored), handkerchiefs, horseshoe outfit and mittens.  Linda was very frightened at first and wet her pants twice; but after she received her ‘baby doll’ (which is all she asked for) she grew a little more calm.  She also received from Santa a cradle, wool muffler, 2 shirts and a kitchen mixing set.
Everything worked out all right.  Larry never caught on.  He was very excited.  I was suppose to be at Grandpa Glens’, so when I came home Larry told me all about Santa’s visit.  He said I was ‘the real Santa Claus’, he could tell ’cause I didn’t wear a rubber mask.  He even saw Santa fly over in the sky.  So I did a pretty good job!!

The gifts Larry received were:
Jack and Julie Pierce…pair wool gloves.
Dad Shafer…$5.00.
Bill and Elizabeth Pierce…rifle(toy).
Kellogg and Irene Shafer….$1.00.
Grandma and Grandpa Pierce..a tractor and farm implement set, a flannel shirt, 1 pair suspenders, molding set (put this away til he’s about 35 years old).”
“Santa Claus brought Larry a lunch bucket, so from Christmas 1948 on Larry has been carrying his lunch, much to his delight.*

Movies, 1948
In my sixth year, I began remembering something of the movies the family went to see. I don’t know how often we went to the show, but do remember the following movies;
Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman, Selena Royle, Robert Barrat
The Paleface with Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Charles Trowbridge, Jeff York
The Three Musketeers with Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Van Heflin

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1947, age 4-5

Public themes and events
* The transistor was invented, after this momentous discovery, electronic goods began to shrink in size. The transistor was also responsible for the rapid development of computer technology in the approaching decade of the 1950s.
* The first tape recorder for home use was marketed by the Brush Development Corp. of Cleveland, OH.
* Kenneth Arnold of Boise, Idaho reports seeing flying saucers over Mount Rainier, Washington. It is the first of many thousands of reports over the years of “shining saucer-like objects.”
* Russia politically and economically sealed Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany under their zone of control.  With this development, President Harry Truman issued a declaration of intent to leave US troops in Germany as long as there were occupation troops anywhere in Europe.  And so the “Cold War” started between the two major survivors of World War II.
* Air Force Captain Charles (Chuck) Yeager, flying the Bell X-1 experimental jet exceeds the speed of sound, flying six hundred sixty two miles per hour above Rogers Dry Lake in southern California, thus achieving a key aviation goal.

The Fourth of July parade, 1947
On this evening, Mom took baby sister Linda and me to a children’s Fourth of July celebration held at a public swimming pool, a few blocks from our apartment.  At the park, electric lights, set inside of colorful shades, had been strung above the sidewalk and about the pool. There were several dozen children, all ranging in size from my height  to perhaps a foot taller. There were lots of parents and older people standing around and chatting with one another.  A  portable record player was seen sitting on table playing music for the crowd.
After a short while all the children were lined up, one behind the other. Some of the kids were wearing  ‘^’ shaped folded, paper hats. Others, like myself were given a stick to carry, like a rifle, on our shoulder.  A  “marching music” record was put on the record player and we children were prompted to march around the pool to the tune.
The parents stood in a ring outside of us kids, listening to the music and watching us march in single file, around and around. After a couple rounds the novelty wore off for me. It just wasn’t any fun walking in circle around the pool following the kid in front of me. I left the ring and began marching in the opposite direction.  Mom tried to coax me back into line, but I wouldn’t go.  I preferred marching in the opposite direction, outside the ring of the other children. It made a lot of sense to me, in this way I could see the parade of smiling kids with their paper hats and wooden stick “guns” as they passed by, while at the same time being able to march.

7 July 1947: First dental experience
[Robert] “Age five years-Larry had two cavities in his upper right side filled. This was done for his school checkup. They weren’t bad at all and he was very good at the dentists – Dr. Tipet.”
I remember that dental experience, because it was to that time, the most excruciating pain I’d ever felt. The dentist was a lot older than my parents, probably in his fifties, a rather thin man of average height. When my Mom turned me over to him, he took me into the Examination room and bade me sit in the dental chair.  It seems that the chair was made of wood, with a padded black leather cushion on the seat and backrest. The chair tilted back, but not nearly to the horizontal position seen in dental practices of the late 20th century. The dentist picked around in my mouth looking things over, then announced he would have to fill a couple cavities. He said he’d have to do a little drilling to get the decay out. The cavities were so small, he “didn’t think Novocain was necessary”, adding, “It will be over in a minute.”

I’d never been to the dentist so and knew nothing of cavities or ‘drilling’ one’s teeth. I went along with the idea of drilling without Novocain.  A moment later the dentist had a small drill in his hand that was driven by black cords that extended to an elbow in the contraption, then back to a central motor on the main machine. It only took a touch of the drill on my tooth before I was sitting erect in the chair trying to creep up the back and away from the drill. The dentist kept talking to me, telling me that it would be over in a moment and that he was almost done.  Yes indeed! In a few moments he was done and was I glad, because the drilling had hurt like hell. Then he told me we had one more cavity to clean out. He said “It is smaller and will be an easier one to do. You won’t need any Novocain, because it was so small.”  I believed him and settled back for the “real quick” drilling.
Unfortunately this episode was just a bad as the first and I was beginning to crack under the continued pain.  I remember clutching the arms of the chair as tight as my little fingers could squeeze, as my teeth felt like they would explode with agony and the dentists drill kept screeching out it’s “whizzbrrizzz” sound. I smelled something burning. My tooth? I don’t remember crying, because at that level of pain your eyes don’t produce tears, they simply bug out  while your body is rigid in agony. I always remembered the dentist office and the pain one could experience there. That was the last time I ever had dental work done without Novocain!  During the rest of my life, I have been afraid when visiting the dentist. I only go when it’s necessary to keep my teeth in good condition, but beneath a veneer of calmness, I’ve been frightened of the pain.

My fifth birthday
[Robert]  “Hazel made Larry a birthday cake with chocolate frosting – five candles and ‘Happy Birthday’ on the top of it.  Larry had his little friends-Eric and Norby and Barby in for cake and ice-cream.  Larry received from his Mother and Dad a pair of long trousers for school, a shirt, candy, and a set of soldiers.  We also bought him a water pistol but decided against giving it to him as it might cause too much trouble.  He likes his soldiers very much and plays with them very often.  Larry also received a birthday card from Grandma and Grandpa Pierce, plus three dollars.  We will buy Larry a pair of shoes with the money.”

Kindergarten memories
My years in school began with Kindergarten at Emerson School, located about three blocks from our apartment in Berwyn, Illinois. In the beginning, Mom walked me to school in the morning  came for me three hours later, when school let out. After a couple weeks, I began walking to and from school by myself.
Little is remembered about Kindergarten.  There were two teachers in the classroom, who helped with our projects and took turns reading stories to us. During school we did such things as color with crayons, work with paper, scissors and glue.
Our room had an open area where we sat on the floor listening to stories and singing songs. There was also an area in the room where stood several short, round tables. We were grouped into batches of five or six children each and assigned a table. The table tops were covered with various shaped pieces of different colored paper. Laying about on the tables were several short little scissors that didn’t cut too well, but which were fun to play with. When it was time to glue papers together, the teachers would bring to each table a bottle of glue made from flour and water.
We worked a little everyday, experimented with coloring. Each table had a small wooden box containing maybe 50 different colors of broken, half used crayons, from which we made our selection.
At some point in the morning we all sat about in a semi circle and sang songs like, The Farmer in the Dell.
Daily, we also had a short rest period. We were required to bring a small rug to school. During mid morning, we unrolled our rugs, laid them in neat rows, and lay down for a five or ten minute ‘nap’.  No one actually slept, but we were required to close our eyes and rest. Most of us pretended to sleep, occasionally opening one eye to seehow many of the other kids were peeking too.  I recognized that a few kids had nicer colored rugs than the others, mine was not one of those nicer ones, the observation was only a curiosity and didn’t really matter.  After our rest period, we were each given a single graham cracker for a snack, I recall that every few days we were also given a small carton of milk.

During recess, the class was taken outdoors into a relatively small paved school yard that was surrounded by a tall chain link fence.  All that I remember we ever did during recess was run foot races.  The teachers would have the class line up against one fence. When the teacher shouted, “Go!” we would race across the yard to the opposite fence. The teacher’s would point out and cheer the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.  At the time, I had no idea what competition, racing and winning was all about.  All that I knew was: Running back and forth for no apparent reason wasn’t fun.  I knew we were suppose to run as fast as possible and try to be “first”, but after trying over and over, it became clear that the taller kids always won the race. I wondered about the purpose of continuously running back and forth, until your legs got tired, in a race that was stacked against you?!

My grandparents big radio
In my grandparent Glen and Elsie’s farmhouse was a large, vacuum tube radio. It had a cabinet that stood about 36 inches high, and about 24 inches wide. Even when I was a child that old radio was considered more like a piece of furniture than what we think of a radio today (1991). As long as I remember, the radio sat in their fully enclosed, semi heated front porch beside a day bed and near several easy chairs.
When you turned the radio on, it took a few moments to warm up before any sounds came out. It also had a little, round, glowing green eye like tuning meter. When you turned the tuning knob and received the radio signal more clearly, the green part of the eye grew larger, when you slipped away from the ideal frequency, the eye grew smaller. The radio was pretty neat to play with.
As I understand, when they first bought the radio, it was a piece of modern technology and was placed with great honor and pride in their living room.
Its purchase dated back to a time when radios were first becoming widely and inexpensively available to the public. Glen and Elsie bought the farm during the mid 1930s at a time when my Dad was still a teenager.  My father told me that on the day the radio was purchased he was unaware that his parents had gone to town with intentions of buying a radio. When Glen and Elsie returned home later that day, they carried the bulky object into the front room and hooked it up. My youthful Dad, Robert, was outdoors at the time. The first thing he heard from the radio was, to quote him, “…someone introducing the President of the United States”.  Dad, who happened to be passing under the front-room window outdoors, said, “I was dumbfounded! What was the President doing at our house?!  Not being very familiar with radios and not knowing my parents bought one, I peeked in the window expecting to see the President in the house!”

[Above photograph is an Internet image of the model radio my grandparents had. It was a 1936 Zenith. The radio received short-wave , AM, and mid-range. It had a shadowmeter circuit which cast a shadow
on a plastic screen which varies with radio signal intensity.  The radio had tone control as well as settings for distance. It has a very large speaker.]

Food shortages in Europe
During the first televised Presidential address, President Truman asks Americans  to give up eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays in order to help alleviate food shortages and starvation in Europe.

Moving to Smazick’s Resort
[Robert]  “We moved from Berwyn, Ill. to Grandma Pierce’s(farm, outside Coloma, Michigan.)
Just before Christmas, we moved from our temporary residence at my paternal Grandparent’s  farm, to rented rooms at Smazick’s Resort on Paw Paw Lake, near Coloma. The farm, Smazick’s resort, Coloma are all only a few miles apart.

Missing the last half of Kindergarten
[Robert] “Larry was going to Kindergarten at Emerson School in Berwyn and only completed 3 months before we moved to Michigan.  We tried to enroll Larry in Kindergarten at the Washington School but they were so crowded and supposedly advanced he couldn’t be admitted.”
I remember that once we were settled in our rooms at Smazick’s Resort, I was taken to a local school for readmission to Kindergarten. I don’t know how it was determined that the local Kindergarten classes were more advanced than those in Berwyn. But I was not allowed into class to finish Kindergarten. This was no problem to me, but I remember it upset my parents.

Christmas 1947   [5 yr. 5 mo.]
[Robert]  “Larry and Linda and Mother and Dad just moved into Smazick’s Resort on Paw Paw Lake. We spent Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s. After going home Santa brought Larry a new corduroy pants and jacket, heavy wool coat, long wool stockings, first necktie, leather slippers, a drum from Uncle Jack and other toys.”

I don’t remember if the family attended any movies together this year or not. I was four years old and turned  five during mid year, while my sister, Linda, was only one year old.  I do have vague memories of our having a baby-sitter stay with us for a couple evenings, so maybe Mom and Dad went to an occasional movie.

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1946, age 3-4

Typical small town street view during the mid 194os.

Public themes and events
* On this year, the first ‘bikini’ bathing suit was modeled in Paris. The bathing suit was named in reference to the impact the atomic bomb test on the Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific.
* ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) the first digital computer is dedicated in Philadelphia, it is composed of 18,000 vacuum tubes.
* The electric blanket is invented. * The “autobank” concept is first used at The Exchange National
Bank of Chicago. Motorists drive directly up to a glass window, where tellers sit behind bullet-proof glass and use drawers to handle transactions.

Robert embarrassed at church (3 years, 6 months old)
[Robert, who is 24 years old, writes] 20 January  “On this day we took Larry to church with us (Presbyterian Church at Clinton and 32nd St. in Berwyn, Ill.)  We left him with a married woman who was minding children during devotional services.  After Reverend Bremicher had finished about 23 minutes of his 25 minute sermon, who pops out of the ante room door, which were on each side of the pulpit, but Larry.  Much to everyone’s amusement and suprise and to our chargrin, he says looking at the minister, “Hi”.  Mr. Bremicher quick of wit replied, “Hi” and then continued on with his sermon.  I had to get up and lead Larry to the rear of the church where we stood til the end of services.  Afterwards I apologized but Mr. Bremicher laughed as did others.”

(Photo at right: At my Pierce grandparent farm, in front of barn, their pets: The dog in the background is Nancy, and the cat I’m holding, is Hitler.)

Larry’s prayers: 21 January 1946
[Robert]  “Larry’s Prayers:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
And this I ask for Jesus sake
God bless Daddy, Mommy, me, my
Grandmas, my Grandpas, Grandma
Shafer, Grandpa Shafer, Grandpa
Glen, Grandma Elsie and my dolly.
There are various endings in the ‘God Bless line’ with Susan mentioned now and then with no prompting.  He also blesses Allen and Gary Shafer also Aileen Shafer, Erick (little boy upstairs) and Barby (girl across the hall).”

Baby Book entries:
Savings started
[Robert writes] March,   “When Larry was less than 2 years and six weeks old, he had three $25 dollar War Bonds saved from his bank and from presents of his mother and Dad. Due to my entrance into the Navy he hasn’t had another one bought since then and during a year and a half. He has a pretty good start on another one though.”

Larry gets a big bed
[Hazel writes] on 21 April, Easter Sunday, “Last night was Larry’s first night to sleep alone in a big bed. We’ve told him that he’s getting too big to sleep in his crib now so he feels pretty good about his graduating, plus having a big double bed to himself. He’s getting quite tall now at 3 years 9 months – about 3 feet 2 inches.”

Food hoarders caught
One evening in the Spring, we were sitting at the kitchen table, eating oatmeal for supper, while listening to the radio when a news report came out. The news broadcaster said that Berwyn police had raided someone’s home.  Mom and Dad were surprised, saying that the raid hadn’t been far from our apartment. The police confiscated a several hundred pound ‘hoard’ of sugar.  The news went on, mentioning several other families by name, who had also been caught with hoards of food or other products.  One of my parents explained that those people had broken the law by having more sugar than they should have.  I was told that people were suppose to share when ‘times were hard’.  When people hoarded it caused other people to suffer and do without.

Fourth Birthday
[Robert writes] of 25 July 1946, my Fourth Birthday:  “On Larry’s 4th birthday, 1946, his mother made him a big cake with four big candles.  Also had chocolate and vanilla ice cream to go on the cake. Larry likes ice-cream the best.  For some reason Larry won’t blow out the candles.  I guess he must be afraid of fire.  We brought him a tricycle for his birthday, but gave it to him before then so he could enjoy it.”

Mom tricks me
It was during the late afternoon, Mom and I were going to the movies.  Since Dad was working “graveyard” shift at the time, he stayed home to get some sleep.  No sooner had we left the apartment building and started down the sidewalk, when I suddenly had the urge to go to the bathroom.  Mom told me to hurry up and that she would stand and wait or walk on very slowly, I could catch up with her.  Away I ran.  Moments later, I came bounding back outside and looked down the sidewalk…Mom was gone!  I stood in surprised disbelief. “Mommy’s gone!? I had hurried… What should I do? ”  After standing there and looking for a few long moments, I slowly turned and sadly began walking back toward the apartment.
Then, looking up, I saw her.
There was Mom!
She was standing stealthily up against the front of the apartment building and laughing.
She had leaned up against the building to hide from me.
In my haste to get back outside and catch up, I’d run right past her.  Happy that she wasn’t gone and my being on the verge of tears, I ran to Mom. She told me she never would really run off and leave me.
We proceeded with our walk to the movies.
Mom had pulled a real good trick on me, probably the best trick anyone ever pulled on me during the years of my early youth.

US farming comes into the 20th Century
Meanwhile, down on the nations farms: Tractors had almost completely replaced horses and the milking machine was replacing hand milking in the dairy. Change was coming rapidly to the rural areas.  Whereas in 1935, only 10% of US farms had electricity, by the end of the 1940s, some 85% were electrified.

Linda is born
[Robert]  “During August, Larry spent about three weeks on Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s farm at Coloma, Michigan.  During this time Larry received a baby sister, Linda Franceen.  After Linda came home from the hospital and Larry from Michigan, Larry enjoyed very much holding his new sister while he sat in his rocking.  He was greatly pleased that we allowed him to do so.”

Linda’s newspaper Birth article:
“Six pound nine ounce Linda Franceen was added
to the R.F. Pierce family Aug.17 (1946) at
MacNeal Memorial Hospital, Berwyn. In
addition to the new arrival, the family have
a four year old son, Larry.”

The coal room
In the basement of our apartment building there was a large coal storage room associated with the building’s hot water steam radiator heating system.  Periodically, a coal truck would drive up the alley, behind the apartment, to unload its coal down a chute into this room.  When the coal pile was still high along the wall, it was fun to climb and slide down.  Unfortunately, I only played in the coal room a couple times.  When Mom saw my clothes marked with coal and my skin filthy with carbon black, she persuaded me (!) not to play in there.

“Hi Picklepuss!”
One summer afternoon, a neighbor boy and I were playing in the sand box, near the apartment buildings side door,  when Dad came home.  As he opened the screen preparing to go inside, I greeted him with a cheerful, “Hi Picklepuss!”  It was a silly little term I recently heard, but was unaware of its negative connotations.  Dad had been working a rotating shift at the factory.  It was a hot day and I suppose he’d had a rough day on the job.  My greeting stopped him cold in the doorway, he silently turned, stepped over to the sand box and gave me a slap up side the head.  I’d thought the statement was cute and funny. I didn’t understand why I was slapped.  I was after all, glad to see Daddy come home from work.

1946 Fifth Christmas
[Robert]  “On Christmas Eve Larry became very ill with a fever and a very sore throat. I called Dr. Ehlers but he couldn’t come. He gave a prescription of Sulfa ____ gum. Christmas Day Larry had to stay in bed but he enjoyed his many gifts especially a cowboy suit from Grandma and Grandpa Pierce. Other gifts from them were Tinker Tots, a book called “One Story A Day” and a bookcase. Dad Shafer sent $5.00 for his bank.  Uncle Walt sent Larry a subscription to ‘Jack and Judy’. Bill and Elizabeth sent him a bowling game, Jack and Julie gave him a set of wooden toys. ‘Barby’ across the hall sent Larry a funny play dog called ‘Frisky’. Mother and Dad gave Larry a ‘Book of Bible Stories’ which he likes very much.  Also we gave him a color book, chalk for his blackboard, two sets of tinker toys and a pair of woolen mittens.”


Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1945, age 2-3

Public themes and events
* World War II’s production effort created a voracious demand for workers in war industries. The onset of the war put an end to the Great Depression of the 1930s, it quickly soaked up the nations manpower and eliminated unemployment. By 1944, nineteen million women were employed in the labor market, a thirty percent increase in only three years. By 1945, there were two hundred fifty thousand women in military uniform.
* Almost immediately after the explosion of the first atomic bomb, glowing reports of the peaceful use of atomic energy began appearing. It was said that, “all other forms of energy would be antiquated, such as fuels and explosives. Dams and electrical transmissions would be as out moded as stagecoaches.” The energy was a breath of air and “would operate a powerful airplane for a year continuously.”
* Consumer advertising promised that consumer goods would be back in production as soon as wartime demands ended.
* Plastics exhibits are the rage across the U.S.A. bringing the promise of durable, cheaply produced, inexpensive consumer goods.

A train trip to Seattle (2 years 6 months old)
16 January 1945 – 5 April 1945  [Hazel writes]: “Larry went to Seattle, Washington with mother January 16, 1945 to see Daddy while he was in the Navy and we stayed until April 5, 1945. Larry was sick all the way home.”
I remember only bits and pieces of this trip. We took a passenger train from Chicago, undoubtedly right through St. Cloud, Minnesota  enroute to Seattle, Washington.
We had coach seats, but slept in a “sleeper” where there were curtains which provided privacy for our small bed at night.  I don’t recall if the coach seats folded down into a sleeper or if we slept in a separate room. The trip to Washington was boring for a small child.  All there was to do was look out the window at endless miles of snow covered land, during the three day trip.  I remember going through the high, rough,  snow covered mountains of western Montana and Idaho. I’d never seen mountains before, so these were exciting.

Throw Larry from the train?
My recollection of one series of events is not pleasant:  Next to our coach seat, on the wall, were several buttons, one of which signaled the Coach Attendant. Apparently I’d been playing with and pushing the buttons against both Mom’s and the attendant’s instructions. Finally, the Coach Attendant, a big black man, told me if I pushed the button again he’d throw me off the train.  Shortly, I pushed the summoning button and the Attendant came with a big white mail bag.
I never have understood how Mom could have gone along with the gag, but Mom and I followed the colored man back to a train exit located between cars. There, inorder to teach me a lesson, he put me in the bag with only my head and neck sticking out. Then opening the door he began swinging me back and forth getting ready to throw me off the train, all the while counting, “One…two…and…three!”.
We were in the midst of the mountains.  As I swayed back and forth inside the bag, I could see Mom behind the man, looking on and smiling.  I was frightened and didn’t like my treatment.  A moment later I was set free from the mailbag.  I never touched those buttons again and I’ve never forgot what happened. Thinking about the episode now, makes me sad and hurt.  I would never let someone treat a child of mine like that.
When we arrived at the Seattle train depot,  I remember Mom running to a man in the crowd, their hugging and kissing. He was my father.  He was wearing a Navy suit just like the small one I had on. There were many other men in the large building all wearing Navy uniforms.  I don’t remember any other specifics from the trip other that being sick and throwing up, on the way home.

First memories of father
Now, as I compile these thoughts, it is interesting to note that the trip to Seattle brought my first memories of my father.  When I was a baby, my Dad was working and therefore gone from the house during the hours when I was normally awake.  Soon after my second birthday, Dad was drafted into the Armed Forces and was out of the household.  It has always seemed to me that there has been a discontinuity in knowing my father, that he wasn’t around during my early life.
30 April 1945: Allied Invasion
It’s been a year since the Allied invasion of Europe and nine months since the German Armies resistance was broken in Western Europe. On this date, as Allied troops closed on Berlin, Germany, Adolph Hitler, infamous leader of the “Third Reich” committed suicide in his Chancellery bunker.

A lunch of crackers and milk
Due to war rationing and our small military dependents allowance, Mom and I ate frugally. I don’t know why the following memory has stayed with me for 67+ years, but there was a particular meal we once had, which I recall:
‘I’m sitting in a high chair at our white metal kitchen table. Mommy is sitting next to me, on my right. She is wearing a dress. We’re eating saltine soda crackers and drinking milk for lunch, nothing else.  Mom shows me how to dunk the crackers in milk. She tells me something about our lunch, something about money, and about the war. I don’t understand what she means, but my meal of crackers and milk taste kind of funny.’

German surrender
On 7 May 1945 Germany surrendered “unconditionally”.  The German nation was crushed and destroyed. Her major cities are heaps of rubble.  Her factories, railways and private dwellings are destroyed.  The countryside has been laid to ruin, “scorched” by retreating armies.  Across Europe, millions of people are homeless or in exile.  Great Britain is so impoverished and deep in debt that she will eventually recover, but only as a Second Class world power.
With Germany’s defeat, the Allied war effort begins to shift against the Japanese, in the Pacific.

Robert transferred:
By 12 June father had been transferred from Fire Control School in Seattle, WA to a new assignment:
Robert F.  Pierce, S 2/c, V7 Unit, McKean Hall, Room 422, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

Baby Book entries: Concern for deceased baby sister Susan [Robert]: In June,  “When Larry was almost three years old his mother told him the story of his little sister (Susan). Several months later in his prayers he asked, out of the clear sky, if he could ‘God bless Susan too’? He had remembered her name these many months. It was good to know he was learning to think not only of others, but was also developing within himself.”

First wartime use of the A-bomb
In order to hasten the end of the war, the USA used a secret weapon, the Atomic bomb, against the Japanese. This, the first nuclear weapon used in war, was dropped on Hiroshima 16 July 1945 , devastating most of the city and eliminating the entire Second Japanese Army, 100,000 die.

25 July 1945 (3 years old): My birthday telegram.  Robert  was stationed in Philadelphia, PA. from whence he sent me the following Western Union telegram:

“Larry got a large Teddy Bear, almost as large as he is on his first birthday.  He bites ‘Teddy’s’ nose for a kiss. When Larry gets tired he loves Teddy up a lot.”

Melting a hairpin (3 years, several days old) [Robert]:  “Near the end of July 1945, when Larry was almost 3 years old, he put the hair pin, at left in a electric outlet which melted the hairpin about 1/2 inch. He burned three fingers. He was taken to Dr. Deardorff but was found okay except for the electrical burns. He needed to keep one finger wrapped up for several days.”

US War production
Big Business continued to prosper. By 1945, eighty two percent of the Army and Navy obligations were held by the top one hundred U.S. Corporations.  American war production had been prodigious, between 1 July 1940 and 31 July 1945, U.S. factories manufactured;
•  296,429  aircraft and 41.5 billion rounds of small arms ammo
•  5,425  cargo ships and 2,455,964 trucks
•  71,062  naval ships and  5,822,000  aircraft bombs
•  372,431 pieces of artillery and 102,351 tanks & self propelled guns

6 August 1945:  The Japanese refused to surrender and a second A-bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki, Japan, thirty six thousand died.

Japanese surrender: Seeing the frightful destructive power of America’s new weapon, the Japanese military government ceased fighting and unconditionally surrendered on 14 August, thus ending World War II.

Larry starts saying his prayers 1 September [Robert]:  “At the age of 3 years and 6 months Mom first started telling Larry about prayers. Started saying prayers alone about a week later.  He didn’t need any prompting then, however he did afterwards for some reason.”

A shopping trip to the butcher
Memories of a shopping trip from this period:  Mom and I are walking down the sidewalk in town.  Mom is holding my hand.  We enter a meat market. There is a man near the back of the store, he approaches us wearing a white apron.  Mom and the man chat for a minute while I stand nearby, looking around.  I don’t remember ever being in a store like this before. The meat market was a small narrow shop with a glass cased meat locker — cooler, a scale, counter and cash register.  Mom ordered some lard and a pork chop.  The butcher walked from his counter a few steps to a glass case, where Mom pointed out the piece of meat she wanted.  The butcher removed the meat from the case, weighed it and wrapped it in white paper.  He then scooped the lard out of a large tin can and put it in a small, square, white cardboard box. Mom paid the man and we left the store.

Seeing a helicopter
Another experience:  One day, Mom took me for a late morning walk to the local park. Something important was going to happen.  At the park, a small crowd of people had gathered, they were listening, quietly talking and looking about. We were waiting to see the arrival of a ‘helicopter’.  I didn’t know what a helicopter was.  After a few minutes we heard a “brrRrrRrrR chop-chop-chop…’  and this flying machine came flying in, low over the trees. It settled to the ground about one hundred feet away. The crowd cheered as the pilot stepped out.  This was the first aircraft I recall ever seeing.  Mom said that helicopters were newly invented and this particular one was making the first ‘airmail’ delivery between Chicago and Berwyn.

Don’t wet your pants!
One bright and sunny morning, while Dad was still away in the Navy, Mom got mad at me for wetting my pants. She threatened to “put me in a dress like a little girl if I didn’t stop wetting my clothes.”  I use to have a dress when I was very little, I didn’t want to be a little girl again. The threat made me cry.

World War II ends: On 2 September, Japan formally surrendered.  With the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific Theater, World War II came to and end.

On 30 September Robert’s military address was:
Robert F.  Pierce,  S 2/c, Receiving Station, Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Staying with my Shafer grandparents [Robert]:  “Between Thanksgiving 1945 and Christmas 1945 Larry was left at Grandma and Grandpa Shafer’s while Hazel was out to see me at Newport, R.I. At that time he learned not to wet the bed or his pants and has been perfect in this respect ever since.”
[Robert] “Now Larry’s grandparents (Shafer) had a bulldog named ‘Pug’ and she would jump all over Larry and kiss his face clean with her tongue. Larry also liked their kittens too. At his other Grandma and Grandpa (Glen and Elsie)’ he liked the chickies, kittens, the calf and the piggies. He always wanted to go out and see them”.

Christmas: (Three years & 5 months)
[Robert] “Daddy just discharged from the Navy. We spent Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s in Michigan.  Larry had his stockings filled with nuts, suckers, an airplane, boat, candy cane, candy bars and a small potato.  He got a good laugh over that, as the potato symbolized the times he was a ‘bad boy’.  The more potatoes, the worse the boy.  He also received 8-9 books, blackboard and chalk, two telephones (toy), tea set, table and two chairs, bath robe, comforter, two trains and crayons.  He certainly enjoyed Christmas 1945.”

Sights soon to disappear
1) Internet image: Wooden ice box. Similar to the one we had in Berwyn. “It was made of oak wood and looked like a hutc h or cabinet with brass hinges, knobs and levers.  The top had a door that opened up to drop in the big block of ice. That section was lined in heavy galvanized metal. A small tubular hose was attached to drain the water away from the melting ice. The drip pan which held the hose had to be emptied regularly to keep the floor dry.
The front door of the ice box opened with a brass lever. There was a wire shelf in the center so that it appeared to have two shelves for food. It was necessary to do a lot of stooping and bending over to get the food in and out.
2) Internet image: The ‘Ice Man’ had a flatbed truck with short side rails. He drove it to the ice house downtown, filled the truck with 25 and 50 pound blocks of ice and covered the load with a heavy tarp. He parked his truck in the street. Then opening the ice tongs wide enough to sink the points into both sides of the big ice block, he hoisted the ice onto his shoulder, and carried it on a leather pad on his shoulder, up the stairs and into the apartment where he dropped it in the metal ice box compartment. When Mom needed small chunks of ice she used an ice pick to chip away smaller pieces from the big block.

While living in the Berwyn apartment, our food refrigeration was accomplished like just about everyone else’s at the time  – in an ice box. I only vaguely remember our big old ice box, but retain the image of the ice man, who delivered the ice every few days. I remember him stompinging up the apartment stairs, to our apartment and then others; each time carrying a block of ice on the leather skin draped over his shoulder.
By the mid 1940s, electricity was being used essentially everywhere in the nation, the old ways and technologies were dying out. Just three years later, in 1948, I saw for the last time two disappearing phenomena: 1) a wooden icebox in common use, the last I would ever see and, 2)  a horse pulling a wagon through town that was on business and not part of a parade.

The USA, a new superpower
At the end of World War II, there were only two great powers left in the world: the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (The USSR was  more commonly referred to as ‘Russia’.)  Russia emerged from the war victorious, but with considerable human suffering and materials damage. These losses would require years to recover from. The USA, not having suffered materials damage at home, became undisputedly the greatest industrial power in the world. The country had emerged from her prewar isolation and was the sole nation in possession of the Atomic bomb.

The return of American servicemen from the war lead to a marriage rate that was the greatest in US history. The explosion in marriages and the ensuing birth rate, lead to an acute housing shortage.

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1944, age 1-2

Public themes and events
* Before World War II, American clothing fashions non creatively followed Paris fashions.  With the onset of Nazi army occupation, Paris was suddenly cut off  and American clothing manufacturers were forced to make fashion design decisions for themselves. These decisions were regulated by strict war time limitations on fabric use, i.e., dresses could have no more than a two inch hem, blouses were allowed only one patch pocket… Then at the end of the war, U.S. “fashion designers” turned everyone’s head by announcing that, “All yesterdays clothes are absolutely out of date and from now on  women can only wear the New Look.”  It was said at the time, “If American women humiliate themselves like a herd of ludicrous cattle, their Twentieth Century emancipation is just a empty boast.” The Paris oriented, but American centered fashion industry grew, changing styles each year, before long styles were changing with the seasons.

12 January 1944: “Larry, age 17 1/2 months has 15 teeth.”

5 March [Hazel]:  “Larry started to say his own name ‘Wary’, said it so many times that day.”

D-Day 6 June: The invasion of Europe Allied troops landed on the shores of France today in a great invasion of Europe. The defending German military was able to slow the Allied expansion only until July 20, when their resistance was broken.

The apartment flat in Berwyn
Between 1 July and 30 September, my parents moved from Brookfield, IL. to the 2nd floor, front corner apartment, in this three story brick building, located at 3042 Clarence Ave., Berwyn, Illinois. We lived here from roughly 1943 to 1946, part of which time my father was in the US Navy.
Years later, I found that my Grandparents, Glen and Elsie Pierce, had been the previous tenents at the apartment, having lived there for several years. The apartment was their home during the school year, when Glen taught school. During the spring and fall, Glen and Elsie commuted to the farm on weekends and lived there during the summer.  By this time, Glen had retired and  moved to the rural Coloma, Michigan farm. Glen and Elsie sublet the apartment to my parents and generously gave  them some of their furniture.

25 July: I’m two Years Old!

August 1944: Paris was liberated by the Allies. The war in Europe was going well, the once mighty German war machine was being slowly pushed back towards its homeland, its days were numbered.

August [Hazel]:  “Shortly after Larry’s second birthday his Dad went in the Navy.”

9 September 1944: The date Robert F. Pierce was inducted into the U.S. Navy.

1 October [Hazel]:  “Daddy sent Larry the ‘New Testament’ on Oct 1,’44 from Great Lakes U.S.N.T.C. (United States Naval Training Center) where he was in training.”

This is Robert’s 23rd birthday. His military address was ;
Robert F. Pierce, Company #1793, U.S.N.T.C., Great Lakes, Illinois,(U.S.N.T.C.=United States Naval Training Center)

Frank Sinatra
On 12 October 1944, popular singer, Frank Sinatra, sang to 3,600 squealing teenage girls at  the Paramount Theater in New York. Following this, Sinatra signed a contract with Columbia records, his income leaped into the millions. Adults were mystified and outraged saying: “We can’t tolerate young people making a public display of losing control of their emotions.” Although Sinatra was listed “4F”  (unable to serve in the Armed Forces)  due to a punctured ear drum, he was resented by a great many people. While he made millions of dollars at home, American lads were giving up their lives on foreign beach heads.

“Wary” talking [Hazel]:  “When Daddy was home on his first leave from the Navy, Nov. 22, ’44  Larry woke up in his crib one morning and before he said another word or even got up said, ‘Daddy lazy bones’. This remark awakened Daddy thoroughly cause he was drowsy and never expected anything like that from ‘Wowie’. He calls Mommy ‘lazybones’ in the morning too.”

[Photocopy at left: A WWII War Ration Stamp book issued for me; examples of inclosed stamps laid out below. My mother, Hazel M. Pierce, signed the book in my behalf.]

November [Hazel]: “Larry goes around everywhere singing, ‘Super Suds, Super Suds’, just like they advertise on the radio. Sounds so funny!”

November [Hazel]:  “Larry likes Daddy to pick him up and throw him all around in the air or drop him on the bed. He likes this rough and tumble.”

Susan Anne Pierce  [Hazel]:  “On Thanksgiving Day Nov 23, 1944 Larry became brother to a little baby sister, Susan Anne. Susan who had tinted light golden red hair lived only a day and a half before she left us. It hurt us all.”

Newspaper announcement: “Susan Anne: Mr. and Mrs. R.F. Pierce, 3042 Clarence Ave., their stork gift at the MacNeal Memorial Hospital, November 23.” Susan, referred to as a “Blue Baby”, died the next day in her incubator at the hospital.

My ol’ Raggedy Ann doll
3 December 1944  [2 yr. 4mo]  [Robert]: “Larry has a Raggedy Ann doll which he calls ‘Raggy’. He has had it almost two years now and won’t go to bed without her or hardly anywhere else without Raggy. Raggy is almost all worn out and very dirty however he loves her better and more than any of his other play things.” Note: The doll was a gift from Christmas 1943, eleven months earlier.

13 December: Bob is transferred to the Navy’s Fire Control School at Seattle Washington.

Penicillin saves Robert’s life
During his tour of duty in the Navy, Robert caught strep-throat and was hospitalized in serious condition. His doctors later told him he would have died if he had not been treated with the newly developed miracle drug, Penicillin.

17 December Julie (Wilkinson) [my aunt, wife of Bob’s brother Jack] wrote Bob a letter, saying:”…Jack is in Holland. How I wish this whole thing were over and everyone would be back together again…”
Julie’s letter missed her brother-in-law, Bob, at the U.S. Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, but caught up with him at his new assignment at:

N.T.S.C.H. (FC)
Lake ?noc?? (undecipherable), Seattle, Washington
Bob was stationed here for twenty weeks.

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Chapter 1943, age 0-1

Public themes and events
* To the folks at home, World War II brought the greatest prosperity in years. Although it was a somber time, the U.S. standard of living was 16% higher in 1943 than it had been four years earlier, at the end of the Great Depression.  Meanwhile, in that microcosm called “home” my parents made the following entries in my baby book:

Entries made in my Baby Book
 1 January:  “Larry sat up alone.”

7 January:  “Had first vegetables.”

22 January (Seven months): “First tooth appeared, a second one 12 days later.”

17 April (9 months old)[Robert]:  “Larry got his first War Bond, $25.00, out of his savings bank.”

1 June (10 months, 1week): “Started walking alone against the wall and furniture.”

6 June (10 months, 2 weeks)[Robert]:  “While Larry was taking his bath, Hazel held him while Dad cut his hair. He now has 8 teeth”.

Saturday, 17 July: “Started walking alone, without holding onto anything.”

21 July”(Larry): First stood up alone.”

Sunday 25 July 1943 (One year old)[Robert]:  “Daddy worked.  Mom made Larry cupcakes for his first birthday. Celebrated that night at home, just Mother, Dad and Larry.  Dad and Mother got Larry a large ‘Teddy Bear’, almost as large as Larry.  Also bought Larry a toy wooden wagon with poles sticking up with round balls on top of the poles. They all come apart and Larry likes  that.  Also got him a transparent ball with a dunce in it.  Grandma and Grandpa Glen and Elsie gave Larry $5.00 for his bank.”

Late August & early September (13 months, 1 week)  [Dad took a weeks vacation at which time the family went to Lake Michigan.  A photograph taken there shows me wearing a baby dress, squatting down in ankle deep water along the shore and crying.  From deep in my memory I seem to recall fragments of this event: ‘There is the gentle lapping of the water…Mom is watching from up on the beach, where she is sitting on a blanket…I’m crying because I don’t like standing in the cold water…the bottom of my clothes are cold, wet and uncomfortable’.-LP]

December: “Mother started brushing Larry’s teeth about the middle of Dec.1943, age 17 mo.”

25 December 1943 (1 year, 5 months) Second Christmas
“Presents Larry received for Christmas:
•  Mom & Dad – 3 books, Raggedy Ann doll (which I still have), a fork and spoon set, ball, suit.
•  Grandparenst, Glen and Elsie Pierce- xylophone set, wagon, stockings.
•  Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth Pierce -a Mother Goose book. (Forty six years later Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth gave grand niece, Jane E., a Mother Goose book too.)
•  Uncle Jack & Aunt Julie Pierce- toy lamb.
•  Pearl & Alma Shafer (maternal grandparents) – blanket, toy truck.
•  Aunt Aileen – toy dog.
•  Aunt Eloise – wooden dog.”

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Chapter 1942, age 0-1

1942: My Birth

In a sentient, timeless environment
It is timeless in the womb.
There is no light , no darkness.
In this world of near oblivion, there is a rhythmic pressure one becomes familiar with, there is floating and drifting and a gentleness that I became dimly aware of– as touch.
Sound was slowly heard, or felt, and it came from far away.
More and more there grew in me a sentience, which exerts itself  vaguely, as shadows of half-formed, pre-realization.  It departed first knowledge, saying in effect, “There is…”
In my dreamy semi-awareness, sounds became louder; sound and movement became more pronounced, they grew and brought disruption to the eternal cradle and my peaceful sleep.

I became aware that there was abrupt change occurring,
I felt that I was being swept along with, and yet, into the change.
There was pressure, more sounds, there was touching…
My floating world, that place of drifting and gentleness were being shattered.
I wanted peaceful oblivion. I sensed the color had changed from black to red all about me. There was no longer the customary rhythmic pressure.
I found myself wildly swaying without support.
I heard a loud “smack” and dimly felt a new sense– pain.
I screamed at the light and the imbalance. I screamed at the cold and the pain.
I scream at the feelings which seem so separate, yet were part of me.

Then there were other much louder, but familiar types of sound, rather like a semi rhythmic banter.
There were dark shadows moving across the red field that was just visible through my sightless eyes.
I screamed at the sharp sounds that came from all around me and from the sounds that…I, myself, was making!
For a fraction of a second, a period too small to know, my eyes were forced opened then allowed to close.  In that moment I was shocked by a bright light that seemed to burn in through my eyes. I was aware that there were living forms moving about and touching me.

The red glare, again visible through my closed eyelids, was a comfort compared to the terrible bright white light beyond. After a moment or two it became quiet and warm about me and I drifted off to sleep, contentedly sinking back into that gentle peace and oblivion that I’d always known.
And so, I was born into a hospital amongst staff and family and became a living creature in time.

I was named Larry Francis Pierce, after my paternal great grandfather Francis AlbertPierce. The records show I was born on Saturday, 25 July 1942 at 7:04 A.M. to Hazel and Robert Pierce, at Berwyn Hospital, Berwyn, Illinois. Assisting in the natural delivery were Dr. F. B. Deardorff and nurse Cuso. The birth was registered at Berwyn Hospital and the Berwyn Health Department.

For perspective, public themes and events
* Sixty six years and one month prior to my birth, Lt. Colonel George A. Custer and 260 members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry, died fighting the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at the Little Big Horn in Montana.
* Thirteen years and six months before my birth, Wyatt Earp, the infamous andd legendary lawman of Dodge City, Kansas and Tombstone, Arizona fame, died of old age in Los Angeles, California.

Entries made in my Baby Book  between 25 July 1942 and the end of the year:

25 July 1942
[Robert writes] “At the time of birth, Larry weighed 6 lb. 14 oz., was 19 inches long, had blue eyes and a natural part in his hair.”
At  the time of writing this, Bob and Hazel are living at 9122 Grant Ave., Berwyn, Illinois. Robert is an electricians helper.  Hazel, like most women of the times is a housewife.
[Robert] Hazels’ mother, Alma Delight Shafer, “quit work for a week to stay with Hazel after she came home from the hospital.”

The new parents received the following baby shower gifts from relatives:
“Glenn and Elsie Pierce (paternal grandparents): The “Baby Book”, a sweater set, blanket, a baby comb and brush (which I still have) and $10.00 for a baby carriage.
Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth Pierce:  A blue wool blanket.
Uncle Jack and Aunt Julie Pierce:  Rompers.
Great-great Aunt Lil:  A patch quilt. (Lillian, nicknamed Lil, was sister of Anna Flora Anderson Grubb, my paternal great grandmother).
Pearl and Alma Shafer (maternal grandparents): 2 sheets and a pink blanket.
Aunt Ruth (a Shafer):  $1.00
Aunt Eloise (a Shafer): Three “nighties”.
Aunt Aileen (a Shafer):  Wool suit.
Aunt Rowena (a Shafer):  Silk comforter.”

August 1942  (Two weeks old)
[Robert] “Although Larry is being breast fed, he had his first baby bottle, with water.”
[Robert ] “Larry received his sugar ration book at age two weeks – and promptly bought us 4 lb. of sugar.  His book No. #99606-145 and his Board #17-3 in Cook County, Illinois.”
[Additionally] “Larry was born with a lot of dark brown hair and at three weeks it has become much lighter.”

15 August 1942 (Three weeks old)
“Went out the third week after birth with Mother and Dad (Hazel and Bob) to supper. Slept through it like a log.”

24 August 1942 (One month old)
“Baby was given first orange juice – orange juice and Concentrated Cod Liver Oil.”

8-14 September 1942 (One month, two weeks old)
[Hazel] “We went to Michigan on Sept. 8,’42 and met Jack and Julie at Bob’s place (referring to Glen and Elsie’s retirement farm near Coloma).  Later we took Larry over to grandmothers (Pearl and Alma Shafer farm, near Hartford, Michigan). Came home Monday Sept. 14, ’42.”

24 September (Two months)
“Larry had his first solid food-banana.”
“During the first few months after birth Larry was nicknamed ‘Pumpkin’ by his Mom and ‘Tyke’ by his Dad.”

1 October: Robert Francis Pierce, 22 birthday
“(Larry) First drank from a cup, had cereal.”

Sunday, 4 October
“Went to the Roxy Theater and saw  Eagle Squadron and Ten Gentlemen From West Point and he went Oct. 7 to LaGrange Theater and saw Kings Row and The Magnificent Dope. He was good both times.”

Briefs of these movies are as follows;
1) Eagle Squadron, 1942, starring Robert Stack and Diana Barrymore, 108 minutes, black and white film. The story of an American flyer who flies a bombing mission over Germany with his squadron, gets shot down, and makes it back to England in a hijacked German plane.
2) Ten Gentlemen From West Point, 1942, starring George Montgomery and Maureen O’Hara.  In the early 18th century, West Point political opponents attempt to close the academy using a brutal commandant who makes life unbearable for the cadets.
3) Kings Row
4) The Magnificent Dope, 1942, starring Henry Fonda and Don Ameche, 84 minutes, black and white film. Comedy about an unsuccessful school that tries to teach it students how to be successful. The school runs a contest to find the biggest failure in the country. Plans are made for the winner to take the Success Course curriculum for the schools future publicity plugs. Fonda’s character, a bumpkin from Maine wins. Surprisingly, he converts the city folks with backwoods wisdom and an honest way of life.

20-24 November (Four months old)
[Hazel] “Pumpkin went to Michigan with mother, Aunt Aileen and cousin Allen to see Uncle Harry come home from England.” (Harry Shafer was Hazel’s elder brother.)

28 November
[Robert] “Larry got a crib – the best we could get – also a good mattress. That was his first night in it. He woke up and cried that night too.”

“(Larry) Was weaned from the breast and put on a baby bottle.”

25 December 1942 (Five months)
First Christmas: For presents, “Larry received a sweater, two rattles, high chair, two pair pajamas, two dishes, one pair shoes, one pair bedroom slippers.”

Saturday, July 25, 1942Top Headlines This Quarter

Top Songs For 1942 – Serenade In Blue – Glen Miller, Tangerine – Jimmy Dorsey, Jingle Jangle Jingle – Kay Kyser, Sleepy Lagoon – Harry James, White Christmas – Bing Crosby, Jersey Bounce – Benny Goodman, Blues In The Night – Woody Herman, A String Of Pearls – Glenn Miller

House ……$7,573.00
Milk ………………$.60
Gas……………….. $.16
Bread……………. $.09
Postage Stamp $0.03
Avg Income $1,231.00

US President: Franklin Roosevelt
US Vice President:  Henry Wallace

July 25 Birthdays
Steve Podkarski – 1957
Steve Goodman – 1948
Walter Payton – 1954

Academy Award Winners:
Best Picture: Mrs. Miniver, Directed By William Wyler,
Best Actor: James Cagney Yankee Doodle Dandy
Best Actress: Greer Garson Mrs. Miniver


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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

The before time: 1930s until late July 1942

Sometime in 1994, age 52, at the forest homestead Nightstar* rural Foley, MN 

The time is now, and in this fleeting moment…
I stand at the bathroom sink stirring my shaving brush in a white porcelain mug on which is painted the picture of a ‘lion amongst canes’.  After carefully sloshing warm water onto my face, cheeks and below my chin, I lather the whiskered portion of my oval-rectangular shaped face.
For me at fifty-two years of age, shaving is not an unpleasant task. Beginning just below my high cheek bones, I stroke down to the jaw.  After several careful strokes with the razor I’m to my chin, where care must be taken as I have a fairly deep cleft.  Then on to shave beneath my straight and slightly up tilted nose.  My lips are a slight light red, their part at my mouth is straight.  The sides of my mouth seem to dart slightly downward, so as to give the appearance of seriousness. My top lip is somewhat heart-shaped.  The bottom lip, a bit fuller than the top, ever so slightly resembles a person who’s pouting.
The coal-black pupils of my eyes are surrounded by  blue iris’ which contain gray and yellow flecks.  A thin layer of fat, under the skin, in the orbit above my eyes cause the skin to sag at a slight angle, just covering my open eyelids.  The effect is to make it appear that I have a concentrated piercing gaze.
Two slight furrows run across the center half of my forehead, beneath these several more angle down to intersect my brows.  My eye brows gently curve above each eye and are composed of dark brown hair in low density, so as to make them appear light brown.
After washing my clean-shaven face of remaining suds and drying on a fresh towel, I pick up a flexible black plastic comb. Parting my shortish brown hair on the left, I comb the mass up across the top to fall nearly to my right ear.  After several more passes with the comb across the top, then front to rear above each ear, then finally forming a swept back wave at the top front and my hair is groomed. Here and there amongst the swath of my brown hair lie almost unnoticed strands of blonde and golden red, amongst my short sideburns are there are now growing a few strands of gray.
Walking into the bedroom, I select from the closet a pair of comfortable wide wale brown corduroy trousers, a cordovan leather belt and a plain, light maize colored long-sleeved, cotton shirt with button-down collar.  These clothes are laid out on a dark, rich colored quilted bed spread which covers our brass bed during the winter months.
From my antique oak dresser, I remove a pair of neatly rolled boxer shorts, a folded and slightly faded wine colored undershirt and a pair of folded brown, green and burgundy, wool argyle stockings.  The underwear I wore from late the previous afternoon, until my wash cloth bath, only moments ago, are unceremoniously thrown into the clothes hamper.
Stooping to pull on my fresh shorts, I note with some amusement the apparently double jointed three inner toes on each of my feet.  Between my wide large toes and the small, little toes are three long toes which I can simply cause to bend at their joints.  When standing, I can keep the first phalange horizontal, bend the second down vertically and the third or outer length points out horizontally again.
My ankle is bony.  My calf’s and thighs are proportional and muscular, without a trace of fat.  There is little fat anywhere on my body, except for a very small band across my stomach.

Pulling the wine colored undershirt over my head and slipping my well-formed and somewhat muscular arms through its short sleeves, I note my upper arms have very a very sparse covering of hair.  My lower arms have sparse dark brown hair on their back, but essentially none on the paler inner surfaces.  I have considerably denser hair on my chest and abdomen than on my arms or legs.
I now pull on my pants and shirt, button the shirt, except for the collar button, tuck the shirt tails into my trousers. The belt is fastened and fly zipped up.
Although I weigh 169  pounds, stand 5’10” tall and wear clothing labeled “Large”, I’m relatively small boned.
Sitting on the bed, I slip on and tie my size 10D, brown leather, Wing Tip Oxford shoes.  My hands which are normal sized for my wrists, have large palms; probably inherited from my maternal grandfather, Pearl Shafer.  My wrists though small boned, combine with my hand and finger muscles to give me an unusually powerful strong grip for my size.
Now dressed, I stand looking into our full length bedroom mirror. I have a broad chest which makes my body appear a bit larger than one might guess if I was viewed from the side.  In a crowd I am taller than the average by a couple of inches. I’m lightly complexioned, have a relatively long, and thin neck which is flesh-colored.  My somewhat oval-rectangular face with its high cheek bones and rather thin nose make me handsome in a masculine way. At the same time, the darts at each corner of my lips, the furrows above my brow and my piercing gaze lend a sense of frowning seriousness to my continence.
I appear to be between the ages of perhaps 42 to 46 years, certainly not my chronological age of 52.
Turning my head slightly to the right and looking across the top of my dresser, I look amongst many small, old, nicely framed, family photographs.  My sight comes to rest on a double frame which contains picture’s of my parents, pictures taken a half century earlier.  Reflecting on the images of their frozen youthfulness, I become lost in thoughts about life.
A light trance begins to obliterates the immediacy of the moment as my mind swirls back across time, tunneling through the decades of my life, and before, where kaleidoscopic particles coalesce to form an image of the world that existed before my birth.

Come, join me and we’ll walk hand in hand across these pages of time, in this, my life story.

The Events and Years Preceding My Birth
The 1930s
In the Fall of 1929, Yale University economist Irving Fisher, one of the most highly regarded experts in the nation, stated confidently: “The nation is marching along a permanently high plateau of prosperity.” Five days later, the bottom dropped out of the stock market, ushering in the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in America’s history. On October 29, 1929 orders to sell stocks at any price overwhelmed orders to purchase stocks. Millions of dollars suddenly vanished from the American economy in a matter of hours. Large corporations, small family businesses, and individual investors alike all found themselves in the same position—teetering on the edge of bankruptcy or already there.
 American citizens suffered through what came to be known as the Great Depression.  Not only was the economy sour with factory closings, and high unemployment rates, but there were ‘runs’ on banks and depressed commodity prices. In the American Midwest, a severe drought  brought on the ‘Dust Bowl’ of blowing sands and parched land, destroying livelihoods, forcing migration. The combined effects of the depression, banking financial crisis and the Dust Bowl were felt in homes all across the United States.
The Great Depression continued throughout the 1930s.  As the decade passed, people began to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, however for investors, the stock market rose only to fall again. America continued to look inward, absorbed by her own problems. People who had something to lose didn’t take chances, but walked the straight and narrow. For many who lost their farms or jobs, California became ‘the land of milk and honey, a place where someone down on their luck could get a break.’ (Photo above: One of the USA’s countless ‘breadlines’ offering ‘Free Coffee’ for the unemployed.)
There was heat and dust in the heartland, there were bread kitchens and the threat of more unemployment. “Farm families in the Midwest experienced a devastating drought; strong winds in the area blew the soil away into billowing clouds which choked people and covered everything. Dust collected like snow drifts, and farmers were left without any natural or economic resources. They became ‘dirt poor’, and the area became known as the Dust Bowl.”
It is during this time, and within these events in the background of daily life, that we begin this story.

My paternal grandparents, grandfather Glen K. Pierce, was teaching Engineering at Morton High School in Cicero, Illinois. The school system was having a difficult time meeting their budget, so part of the Illinois School System teacher’s pay was in ‘script’, not cash; however, script was not accepted as cash in all commercial transactions. Glen was forced to take a part-time job driving a taxi in order to support the family, a family which consisted of wife Elsie (Grubb), and three sons: William Glen, Jack Pershing and my youthful father, Robert Francis Pierce.

As the 1930s wore on, the family became increasingly concerned with their financial security.  Wanting to provide a safety cushion for themselves, Glen and Elsie bought a  ‘retirement farm’ located between Benton Harbor and Coloma, Michigan.  During summer vacation, the family lived at, and worked on the farm. As they worked, they remodeled the barn and house, installed water and indoor plumbing, and planted  about fifteen acres to orchard.  Their youngest son, Robert, an older teenager, having just graduated from high school, helped on the farm; eldest son, William, was living in Chicago, attending college; and brother, Jack, had left home and was living with relatives in Iowa.

Meanwhile in Germany: Following a period of hyper inflation, Nazi political leader, Adolph Hitler, was becoming a powerful national figure.  Around the world, the island nation of Japan had undergone rapid industrial modernization, her political thinking became militaristic.  Japan looked over the ocean horizon and began planning for expansion.  In early September 1939, Germany attacked neighboring Poland.  Hopes for peace in Europe rapidly collapsed as the world teetered on the brink of World War II.

Early 1940s
In an attempt to check Japanese plans for expansion in the Pacific Ocean, the United States placed an embargo on American oil and scrap metal being sold to Japan.
It was no secret that from 1931 on, every graduating class at Japan’s Naval Academy had the same final exam question, “How would you carry out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor ?”

Summer 1940
One weekend evening, while the family was at the farm, my father, Robert (Bob) attended a dance at the very popular Crystal Palace Ballroom on Paw Paw Lake, near Coloma.  That same evening, Hazel May Shafer, nicknamed “Haz”, was just beginning to socialize after the loss of her boyfriend, Larry, who was killed in a train-automobile collision.  Hazel lived with her parents and brothers on a farm near Hartford, about twelve miles east of Coloma. Bob and Hazel met at the dance and made an immediate impression on one another. A courtship followed which resulted in their marriage a year later.
During the winter of 1940-41, Bob finished his second year of college.

Bob and Hazel married
Bob and Hazel  were married at the Methodist Church in Watervliet, Berrien County, Michigan on 31 May 1941; the Reverend T. O. Lee, officiated in the service. Mom and Dad only mentioned it to me once, and seem to prefer that no one knows the details, but the story surrounding their marriage is as follows:
At the time of Bob and Hazel’s wedding, his parents, Glen and Elsie, unaware of the nuptial plans, were in Grand Junction, Iowa, for the weekend, visiting with Elsie’s mother Anna Flora (Anderson) Grubb.  Bob was alone at the farm and did not inform the family he was getting married.  Hazels’ parents, Pearl and Alma Shafer, were both at the wedding and signed the marriage certificate. (Photo above; Robert and Hazel Pierce, 1942-43)

Bob was only twenty years old at the time of their marriage, so, in order to get married without his parents consent, he signed the wedding license stating that he was twenty-one years old, which he wouldn’t actually be for another four months.
After the marriage ceremony, the newlyweds went back to the family’s ‘retirement farm’ to live. Needless to say, Bob’s parents, Glen and Elsie were surprised when they came home a few days later to find their son had been secretly married.  Apparently they weren’t too offended, because Bob and Hazel continued to live on the farm for a matter time, before Bob got a job back near the family home in Chicago, Illinois.

 July 1941
President Franklin D. Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in the United States, the Japanese were furious.  Conditions between the two countries continued to deteriorate.  Meanwhile, U.S. Military Intelligence broke an important Japanese code and began secretly monitoring her military and diplomatic communications.  By December it appeared that Japan was about to take military action, but where?

Before 21 August
By this date, Bob and Hazel had moved from Glen and Elsie’s farm to the west side of Chicago where they rented the upstairs flat in a house at:
9122 Grant Avenue
Brookfield, Illinois
(Photo at right taken of the Brookfield house in 1989)

Bob found employment as an electrician at:
Electro-Motive Division of
General Motors Corp.
LaFrance, IL

October 1941
I was conceived.

Hawaii: Sat., 6 Dec 1941
Meanwhile, on a little, “backwater” Pacific island known as Hawaii: the U.S. Army, responsible for defending the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, became concerned over possible sabotage by some of the Japanese descendants who lived on the island. The Army was put on the mildest of its three alert levels.  Airplanes were parked in bunches to make it easier to guard them, anti-aircraft guns were retained in their parks, ammunition kept in magazines. Since this was a weekend and a time of rest, the mobile radar crews were manned only between the hours of 4 A.M. to 7 A.M.

Sun.7 Dec. 1941, 7:55 A.M, Attack on Pearl Harbor
The first wave of Imperial Japanese warplanes swept down on the U.S. Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor. Servicemen aboard their ships were stunned: A Commander on the bridge of the U.S.S. Ramapo banged away at the attacking planes with a pistol, tears laced his face.
A “boson’s mate” threw wrenches at the low flying aircraft. From the ships magazine came a call asking what he needed. “Powder !”, he yelled, “I can’t keep throwing things at them.”  A sergeant in the 27th Infantry at Pearl Harbor refused to issue ammunition. He pointed to a sign that said, “No Ammunition Without Captains Orders”.  The gunners on the U.S.S. Argonne shot down their own antenna.

110 minutes later, it was over. We were at war.
Eight big U.S. battleships and three light cruisers were sunk or seriously damaged, 188 U.S. aircraft destroyed and 2400 American servicemen were killed. In this short time the Japanese inflicted greater losses on our Navy than we suffered in World War I. During the engagement, Japan lost twenty-nine aircraft, five midget submarines and one fleet submarine; their attacking naval fleet wasn’t even detected.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt had a brief telephone conversation with England’s Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
W.C.:  “Mr President. What’s this about Japan ?”
F.D.R.: “It’s quite true. We’re all in the same boat.”
W.C.:  “This actually simplifies things. God be with you.”
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the cloud of war took on a global character and became, World War II. The Japanese Empire rapidly expanded its control in Southeast Asia, while Nazi Germany sent its army across Europe.  Although Germany had wished to keep America isolationist, her Japanese ally had overlooked the size and determination of the Americans.
Immediately following the infamous “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor, the industrial giant America, awoke.  Factories and workers, idle from the Great Depression gained full-time employment.
Between 1940 and 1944, as the American war machine grew, unemployment in the  U.S. dropped from over eight million to around six hundred thousand, where the latter were simply persons between jobs. The growing needs of our beleaguered Allies, our soldiers and the civilian population at home created a stressful burden on the nation’s production facilities.

January 1942: Rationing
Food rationing began, starting first with sugar, then spreading rapidly to include all canned goods, meats, shoes, coal, fuel oil and gasoline. Other items, such as bobby pins, nylon hosiery, alarm clocks and razor blades, though not rationed were in short supply.
Rationing was officially put into effect when the government issued Ration Books, small paper covered booklets each containing several pages of small coupons. When purchasing rationed products, the housewife paid with both cash and coupons. Rationed items had a double value, they cost in terms of money and coupons. Regardless of ones wealth (in theory) each person was entitled to only one book for each defined ration period.  Below are listed some product values in terms of their “coupon cost”.

Rationing Stamps
Red  and Blue Ration Stamp values: Red  and Blue Ration 1 point each.
1 lb. American Cheddar Cheese,  8 points
1 lb. Porterhouse steak,  2 points
16 oz. canned peaches, 18 points
1 lb. hamburger, 7 points
6 oz.   frozen fruit juice, conc., 1 point
1 lb. margarine,  4 points
14 oz.  bottle Tomato Ketchup, 15 points

Besides the rationing, women saved and turned in empty tin cans for scrap, while bacon drippings were used in explosives production.  No one went hungry because of either rationing or the shortages, both were merely considered annoying.

Glenn and Elsie continued to teach during the school year and  work on their rural Coloma, Michigan fruit farm during the summer.

23 July 1942: Gasoline rationing begins in the USA.
Far away, World War II waged on.  Armies clashed, cities were bombed, homes and factories destroyed.  Men were galvanized in a great effort…

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963