Days Gone By - stories from the past

Life during WWII was very different from today – [vintage film & pictures]

(Memorial Day seems a good time to remember what life was like in 1942)

I Remember December 7th


Dorothy Graham Gast

“Pearl Harbor has been bombed. Many ships were damaged or sunk” was the alert that interrupted the Sunday afternoon radio broadcast on December 7, 1941. We were living at 708 10th Street, Pascagoula, Mississippi, where the family was listening to the Gene Autry show, when the announcer broke in with news of the attack.

Pearl Harbor Attacks – As It Happened – Radio Broadcasts (1941) by Aaron 1912

Below is a Compilation Of Mutual and CBS Radio Bulletins From December 7th, 1941 by 20th Century vision.

My parents were upset as they talked about the inevitable war and the possibility of Daddy being drafted.

Soon most of the young men from the seacoast town were in service or on their way to training. Older men and some women took their jobs in the Engle shipyard across the highway from the government boatyard where Daddy worked.

Men flooded into the town looking for steady jobs and higher wages that had been missing for more than a decade while the world suffered through the DEPRESSION. Tiny two bedroom frame houses spring up like mushrooms to shelter the influx. Yet housing was so scarce that people cleaned and floored chicken houses to put a roof over their heads.

Charlie Chan: Five Complete Novels Hardcover – 1981

Shipbuilding in Mississippi during WWII

Shipbuilding in Mississippi during WWII

We had boarders in bunks in our second bedroom

Some friends from Tuscaloosa County, Alabama came down to experience the new prosperity. We had boarders in bunks in our second bedroom, while Mama and Daddy, my brother, baby sister and I shared a bedroom.

At times there were even cots in the living room. Mama did the cooking, housework, and laundry. Doing it by hand was such a struggle she bought a washing machine and took in washing from the neighbors. After the clothes were clean and ironed, she would put a laundry basket in my brother’s red wagon, sit baby sister behind, and lead Brother and me to deliver the clothes.

Soon she was making almost as much as Daddy. For families who had seen depression era wages as low as $1 a day for a grown man, this was prosperity. Movies became a common treat and groceries were affordable if you had ration cards and could find them. We bought a cow and kept it on a farm nearby where the farmer milked and shared the milk with us.

A telegraph meant a serviceman had died

Even children knew that the delivery of a telegraph meant a serviceman had died, and everyone listened to the news reports from Europe and the South Pacific. We knew that Roosevelt and Churchill were the heroic leaders resisting the Nazis and the Japs. A common activity was drawing a face in the dirt of a playground, adding a mustache, and stomping Adolph Hitler. Everyone had heard his shrill voice speeches from news broadcasts and had no doubts the Good Americans would save the world from the Evil Axis – Germany, Italy, and Japan.

In following months huge anti-aircraft guns were installed along the beaches. When families went to the beaches a mile from our houses to have an oyster fry. We’d see the guns covered by camouflage with armed soldiers around. Each family had blackout shades to be put over windows when sirens were sounded and air raid wardens would bike around the neighborhood and knock on doors if the light was visible from the streets.

The Andrews sisters sang “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” Kate Smith inspired us with “God Bless America,” and the USO in Pascagoula entertained 18-year-olds from Maine, Nebraska, and California.

The Andrews Sisters – Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (from the 1942 movie Private Buckaroo) by John1948OneA

For the Duration

All plans were based on the phrase, “for the duration,” and Gold Star Mothers mourned their sons. Churches were full of families seeking fellowship in times of fear and despair. We all were waiting for the time when “Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

Andrews Sisters – WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME by konidolfine

Daddy worked in the government boatyards across from Engle’s shipyard in the harbor so he never had to go into military service. Many of my friends’ fathers, uncles, and brothers were away in service, and whole towns went silent when President Roosevelt talked on the radio.

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About Dorothy Graham Gast

Dorothy Gast lives in Romulus, Alabama on the Graham family farm. She taught in Tuscaloosa County Schools for nearly 30 years. She has a "Mine, yours, and Ours" family. She has volunteered in numerous organizations after her husband's eight year struggle with Alzheimers' ended. She helped organize a volunteer fire department after she was 60 and served as board secretary and nationally certified firefighter after extensive training. Her attempts to get the community reading failed, but she contributed books to the new Sipsey Valley high school from the library in her home friends helped her establish. She is known locally by the silhouettes she cuts free hand of children. She began to write nostalgia stories after a grandson asked her to write down the stories often told at family events.

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  1. […] Some of our contributing authors have written about living in this time. Be sure to read Jean Butterworth’s story with the headline, Were the German’s attacking us? For a seven-year-old this was scary! Her family moved to Childersburg, where her father worked in the defense plant and she describes her life there as a seven-year-old. Dorothy Graham Gast describes her life on the gulf coast during this time in the story headlined Don’t Sit Under & God Bless America. […]

  2. My Daddy once described some of the horrible things he would find repairs damaged ships.

  3. gardens and chickens were encouraged by the government instead of being outlawed by uppity elected officials like now. People had to grow most of their food. Yes my family was in WWI and WWII and Iraq, before that too – back to Am Rev War on all sides.

  4. we all had Victory Gardrns. Since meat was rationed we raised rabbits and ate Goat meat.(it was pretty good) We wore canvas shoes since the leather shoes were rationed. if you saw a line you got in it because it was something you probably needed. Most of the time it was nylons. We were in love with nylons. We had been wearing rayon stockings. the had a unique feature, when you sat down and then stood up the knee still poked out and they were not sheer. In those days everything went for the War Effort. The last time we all pulled together for one purpose.

  5. My mother always remembered herself and her friends in elementary school being so excited when they got ration books that allowed two pairs of shoes per year. They all misunderstood and thought that meant they were getting two pairs of shoes and that’s more than any of them had ever had!

  6. […] Life during WWII was very different from today – [vintage film & pictures] […]

  7. While my father was serving in the European campaign, I lived with my grandmother in Opelike. Even though we were three blocks from the center of town, we kept a cow in the pasture in the rear of the house and churned our own butter. Our next door neighbor, who was a school teacher, raised chickens and went into the egg business. There was a large German POW camp just outside of town.

  8. My father worked at a munitions plant in Childersburg during the war. He came home about once a month. I recall wearing some shoes that had wooden soles. We were lucky that one of my Grandmothers ran a farm. We canned everything that could be canned. War news was shared by the ever present radio. I was mostly put out by having to have home made clothes. I suppose I was lucky that I had clothes that hung on nails in my bedroom. Visited my Dad in Childersburg once. He lived in a boarding house with other war workers. It seemed as if the hostilities would never end. It was not a good time for many families that lost loved ones who died far away. I remember it all too well.

  9. 1942, the year I was born.

  10. my grandad was working down there at this time..

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