Turning The Pages

By: Robert Bishop

Pearl Harbor Day. 

On a peaceful Sunday morning on December 7th, 1941, the life as Americans knew it was changed in a matter of hours when the Japs attacked the U.S. Naval station in Hawaii. 

Nobody knew what was happening exactly. Not even the government. As children, we looked to our parents and other grownups for an explanation. They had none

Rumors were rampant. People didn’t know if our country was actually going to be invaded or not. Soon, parents with sons old enough to fight, feared the worst. Their babies would be called to war. 

One thing most people were certain of, that little upstart country would be taken care of very quickly. As we now know, that was not the case.it would settle into a long hard war and all the fine young men would be called to fight for the things we had taken for granted. Our family sent two of my brothers for the better part of four years. My oldest brother’s son was only a baby when he left for the army. He would not see his son again until after he had fought with the 5th Army through North Africa and Sicily and Italy. Roger was ready for school when his daddy came home from the war. 

That story was played out in families all over the community and, indeed, all over the country. We, like other families, proudly hung a little banner with two stars on it in our window. It proclaimed for all to see that two heroes came from this house. 

To children growing up in the war years, daily sacrifices were such a part of life that we didn’t realize at the time that they were sacrifices. 

Meat was rationed. Sugar was rationed. Gas was rationed. Tires were rationed. Butter was rationed. Coffee was rationed. Shoes were rationed. If you bought a tube of toothpaste, you had to have an empty tube to turn in. Most of the time, shoes didn’t last kids until the next ration stamp became valid. Money to pay for the shoes was hard enough to come by, but money was no good if you didn’t have a ration stamp. 

I remember Crews” Store getting some unrationed shoes. I had gone through the sole of my clodhoppers and there was no stamp, so I got a pair. They were not that bad…. until they got wet. Like you would expect paper to do, they disintegrated. 

In school, it was difficult to get gym shoes for the basketball team and even for phys. ed. Most would make hideous black marks on the beautiful gym floors. That was like defiling a church. 

‘Everybody did their part for the war effort. We helped in metal drives 

and paper drives. We joined the Junior Air Raid Wardens. Most of us were messengers and were given an arm band with a red lightning bolt on it. I 

still have mine somewhere. During a practice blackout, we would meet at the home of C.A.Blankenship. He was a warden. In a real air raid, it would be our job to deliver messages by bike or on foot if communications were knocked out

People used to ask why in the world there was any worry about bombs on little Pineville, West Virginia. Mr. Blankenship told us that the chemical plants in the Kanawha Valley would be a prime target for enemy bombers. If returning planes had bombs left, they would likely drop them on any sign of light that they saw rather than carry them back. Sounded reasonable to me. 

Anyway, such was life for kids who spent their formative years learning to sacrifice, even if it was on a relatively small scale. We also knew very well that, compared to the boys in service crouched in a muddy foxhole or worse, we were having it pretty good. 

As we near the Christmas season, you might want to stop and remember Pearl Harbor. And remember the folks that made it possible for you and yours to live the way we do today. 

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