We are at war
I am one of the diminishing generation of children who grew up during World War II.
1943 was the second year of WWII between Japan and Germany. Our Navy was in confrontation with Japan in the Pacific and our Army was fighting Germans in Italy.
I had three older brothers in the service. My brother James enlisted in the Navy in spring 1942. Richard, my oldest brother, enlisted in the Army in January 1943 and my other brother Christy joined the Marines in March 1943.
Our family owned a store in Rockland, Economy's Fruit, and enlisted Earl Cook to manage the store during the war years. I was a proud young man with three older brothers in the service as our home at 9 Prescott St. became a three-star family home with a small flag hanging in our front window. With three brothers in the service and my father who passed away in 1936, it left my mother, my two sisters and myself at home. We had a family income from the store to live on.
Rationing was on during this war period as certain food and products were rationed. Every household had a stamp book, issued by the U.S. government on a monthly basis, to be used for everything from a taxi ride to a pound of butter.
For us kids it meant no Coke or Pepsi, frozen milk products in place of ice cream, a limited amount of candy bars and bubble gum, for some unknown reason, was scarce. But we had Popsicles and popcorn and a limited amount of potato chips. During the winter we went sliding on Pill Hill, just off Broadway, sliding on Pleasant Street and Grace Street Hill, ice skating on Stevens Pond and in the spring, we went fishing for flounders at the pubic landing float.
These were the days before television and we got our news either by newspaper or radio, or by newsreels at the movies. At the park theater, every Saturday afternoon, we had a country western feature. We had the newsreels, a cartoon, a short subject, and the previews of coming attractions before the main show. War bonds and war stamps were pushed on the moviegoer by a star on the screen or by someone in person during the show, urging all of audience to “Buy Bonds.” In school the kids had their own stamp books, saving their pennies to buy war stamps. Everything was for the war effort.
During the war years everyone pulled together. Almost everyone had a Victory Garden, no matter how small a yard, in order to grow what vegetables they could for themselves and others.
There were volunteers for air raid wardens and plane spotters. There were strict blackout rules at night, when no sliver of light should be showing from your windows. Even headlights on automobiles and trucks were taped so that only the most necessary light showed. In those days there was a possibility that we would be bombed because we were on the coast and all precautions were taken.
During the month of June 1943, news on the radio and newspapers was about the Naval Battle of Midway, June 4 -7. A key Naval battle in the Pacific Theatre between the forces of the US Navy and the empire of Japan that turned the tide of the war in favor of the US. We knew our brother James was on a aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific. We learned later his carrier was not involved in that battle.
During the summer of 1943, us kids went swimming at Sandy and Dicks Beach. I can remember the saltwater being so cold it was not so much fun swimming. However, at Sandy Beach, the main attraction was the local young ladies in their swimsuits laying on the rocks while members of the Coast Guard and Navy looked on.
The last week of June 1943, my oldest brother, Richard, who was in the Army, came home on leave from a training base in Texas. This would be the last time we would see him until after World War II came to an end.
On Aug. 20, 1943, the airbase in Owls Head, became a training airfield of the U.S. Navy. Along with newly-constructed airbases in Brunswick and Trenton, the purpose of these bases were to train British pilots in flying the FU-4 corsair airplane from British aircraft carriers in the Pacific. I can remember us kids playing ball in a field off Orange Street in Rockland and the corsairs would fly over so low you could see the pilots waving to us. It would be two more years until World War II would come to an end. This meant that all three of my oldest brothers would come home.