World Changing Events in MY Childhood

I was nine that December day in 1941. I had been playing in the yard at 11 Gates Avenue in Waterbury, and had come inside for some reason-probably to get warm. It was a Sunday, so, many of the aunts and uncles were at our house which seems to have been the Mecca for social events. The quiet was palpable, which was unusual for that gathering, and everyone was staring at the radio which was broadcasting the event that shook America from the Great Depression to the war era. The Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor- which did not mean much to me that day. But the family definitely was concerned.

The Depression had not affected us as much as many others because everybody in the family had a job. They all worked for the large companies-Scoville and Chase Brass and Copper. These companies had already begun to expand from the war in Europe since the brass and copper that they made was used in making shells for munitions for lend-lease, which the United States provided to help the countries being invaded by the Axis(Germany and Italy).

I remember there was concern about my dad being eligible for the draft, but he was deferred because he was in his thirties with young kids at home. He also was involved in working for a company vital to the defense effort. The war, for me, was writing letters (v-mail) to my Uncle Joe, my mother’s youngest brother, who was in the Army Air Corps in North Africa, or bringing scrap metal to big piles of aluminum and steel outside school to be melted into planes and bombs for the war effort. My mother had become an air raid warden and I can still remember walking the neighborhood with her making sure the blackout curtains covered the windows so enemy planes could not see the lighted city and target it for bombing. Sometimes, great armadas of our planes filled the sky as they passed over Waterbury on their way east to Europe. I remember feeling very proud at the sight.

I recall A-ration stamps placed on the front windshield of the car for gasoline and the occasional surreptitious trip to Hitchcock Lake in the car with Ma to go swimming. There was also sugar rationing and saving cooking grease, (“Lucky Strike Green has gone to war”)-all for the war effort. There were some minor inconveniences but life seemed normal to me.

I was at Camp Mataucha, the Boy Scout camp, in August, 1945, walking down the narrow road below the airport after competing in a race, when I came upon some boys running up from the camp yelling that a big bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Glad to hear this but unaware that a new era had just begun, I told them about my race. And life went on. The world we had known would never be the same and we had no clue.

RJG 05/11

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