Autograph books

By Barbara F. Dyer | Jul 30, 2020
Courtesy of: Barbara Dyer Women work in the Shipyard during World War II.

An autograph book is something I have not seen or heard about in many years. Perhaps you have never heard of one, so here are some memories of the era when it was a necessary item of a teenager. It was a small item with perhaps a padded cover. Every teenage girl had one and proceeded to have all her friends and/or classmates sign their name in it. The goal was to get it filled. Can you imagine a more exciting activity than that? Well, probably about 70 years ago that was it. They cost probably a quarter, and maybe some were cheaper, maybe even 10 cents. I had several when I was in high school, but only used one at a time. When I moved from "home" to my own house, I did not bring anything like that and wish today I had.

Also left in the attic were many scrapbooks, as that was a hobby of all young girls. You could buy one for a dime and I thought it was important to save memories by filling scrapbooks. One I remember was the one in which I kept a souvenir of every thing I went to, even if only a napkin. As any party was a big event to us, it was a way to record it.

Another scrapbook I remember in particular. It was a little more expensive and might even have cost a dollar. Anyway, I was working and bought one, and filled it with memories of World War II. I'm sorry I did not keep that one, as it might even be valuable today. It had letters from my friends and relatives from the Navy, Army, Coast Guard and Air Force. Among other things, there was a pencil from Japan, and a small German flag retrieved by a friend who fought in Germany. Many things were rationed during World War II: shoes, silk stockings, sugar, etc. We had ration books with stamps in them to use to purchase any of these items. Gas was rationed also. You could get a book of stamps, in order to buy gas, if you had a reason to be driving for the war effort, particularly if you were working in the Shipyard. It depended on how far you had to travel and if you took riders with you. There never were enough extra stamps for gas that you might go for a joy ride, besides it was not patriotic to travel, even to Rockland. I walked a mile and a half to work, but a neighbor wanted a little extra gasoline, so he told the Board that I rode with him. Tires were also very difficult to buy. Old tires were turned in, as well as scrap metal, to be re-used for the war effort.

In the evening everyone had to have "blackout curtains" so lights would not be seen from the water, as there were German submarines lurking off our coast. Not only were the windows blacked out, but automobile lights had to be painted with black half way up the headlights. The U.S. Coast Guard was stationed on Curtis Island, taking six-hour shifts to watch for submarines. There were also Coast Guard patrol boats from a station in Rockland, who patrolled our waters. I had a four-hour shift, from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., on Mondays at the Town Office, working in the Report Center. At the same time, my first job was working in the Rexall Drug Store, and I had to be at work at 8 a.m., but it was just across the road.

In Camden was an Army Camp, "Camp Camden," whose soldiers patrolled the streets all night. Sometimes, as a classmate of mine and I were walking at four o'clock in the morning to the Report Center, they would stop us, and they wanted to know where we were going, as no one should be out that time of the night. (They would also ask us if we were going to U.S.O. dance that week at the Opera House.) It could be that anybody out at that time might be spies. A few miles north of here, the Patrol did catch two men, dressed in suits and felt hats, walking in the night. They were German spies from off a submarine and thought that was the way Americans dressed all the time.

It always amazed me just how quickly Camden went into the war effort. Some women from town had a motor pool and many of us rolled bandages one night a week in the parish house of the Congregational Church, (the building next to the Elm Street school). The men from town had a night watch patrol in their vicinity called a Neighborhood Watch.

The ladies from the motor pool, among other things, held a dance in the Opera House for the servicemen and invited the local young women to attend. They also planned hayrides for the service men and the town girls. There were families in Camden who opened their homes, so when the servicemen had a short furlough, with not enough time to go to their out-of-state homes, the boys were welcomed to some homes to eat and sleep for the few days they were given. They made them feel at home and sometimes had parties for them. One lady on Chestnut Street always found time to fit them in with her family and loved to cook for them. They were treated like sons.

Six Coast Guard boys were stationed on Curtis Island. Captain Morrison was the lighthouse keeper. His only son had been in the service and was killed in action. He treated those Coast Guard boys as if they were his sons. They took six-hour shifts to watch for enemy U-Boats. He would cook a great meal and have the boys bring a girlfriend over to dine with them. All servicemen stationed in Camden were treated with kindness by many families, as most of them had sons who had gone in the military.

Camden moved very quickly for the war effort, and things closed just as fast when victory was declared. How vividly I remember when the war ended. They had a Victory Parade, speakers in the Village Green and even a Victory Dance in the street in front of the Post Office. It was quite a celebration, for which many had prayed and hoped for during the four years of the war. It was finally over and many of Camden's sons, daughters, fathers and even mothers would be back in their own little homes again, just like it said in a popular song of those days, "Coming Home."

Ration books during WWII contained stamps to use to purchase shoes, silk stockings and sugar. (Photo by: Barbara Dyer)
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