Sunday, June 29, 2008

One 4th of July-----1944

The year was 1944---would be another year before WW II would end----My family was living in a two bedroom walk up in Gary, Indiana. Dad was working for US Steel. Mainly his job was producing the necessary tubing to make small rockets with. My Mother was your typical housewife of that era. I was 7years + 2 months old, and attending 3rd grade at Horseman grade school. It was summer, I lived in short pants, and when not at home would be found in the big city park, (it seemed huge to me at the time) two blocks from the apartment. My older brother Frank, (he was 19yo) was serving in the Marine Corp---and we proudly had the big gold star banner hanging in our front window facing the main street. (there were a lot of gold star banners in the windows up and down the street.

In all honesty, being a kid like I was, maybe my parents and adults in general kinda kept the war from us . I can't say I lost any sleep over the day to day news that was given. I DO remember that it was pretty much set in Stone, that come 6pm, the world stopped and my parents would listen to Gabriel Heater report the days news. His radio broadcasts would always begin---"We have GOOD/BAD (as the case might be on that evening report) News Tonight. I had to remain silent and be sure not to interrupt with questions, and for the most part I found it boring, as I didn't really understand what the war was about---but yet I could sense my parents were very concerned, and primarily about how my brother was doing. Because of censorship my brother couldn't write and tell us exactly where he was, but we knew he was fighting in the Pacific. My brother signed up the day he was given his HS diploma, like all the guys in his class did.

My world was of course school, playing ball and games with my peers in the park, occasionally my dad would take me fishing, we never caught anything but still I found it fun, I was such a water dog, my folks signed me up to take swimming lessons at the local YMCA---lessons were .10cents a week. I of course got to go every Saturday to the local theater Matinee double feature----lots of westerns, lots of comedy (Bud Abbott/Lou Costello), lots of cartoons, we also got a weekly newsreel promoting the war effort, and upbeat scenes of our troops storming beaches, and lots of propaganda how Japs were bad, Nazis were bad, England, France, Canada , Russia were good etc. I remember to rationing cards, and my mom always fussing about getting butter , sugar, etc. , but other than the above, the War was not something I concerned myself about.

Then one day I came running in from the park looking for a snack, and found my mother looking particularly grim----and she had me go get the lady who lived next door to come over. I did, and then the next thing I knew, my Dad was home in the middle of the day, the ambulance came---and my mother was taken to the hospital. I could tell my Dad was very scared, and seeing that, so was I. My mother was released from the hospital a couple three days later and came home---she seemed to me at least to be back to normal, but in reality, and I learned this many years later---she had been diagnosed with Cancer of the Liver, also called at that time Yellow Jaundice. I wasn't told any of that, so had no idea how seriously ill she was---about this same time----we were receiving mail from my brother---sporadically, I remember seeing the thin onion skin airmail paper that was used, saw too the heavy dark censored black out of some parts of it---anyway from these letters my parents were tracking my brother's unit in the pacific----and these letters, coupled with thus the seriousness of hearing Gabriel Heaters news reports----"we have Good News Tonight"----

and so as it turned out---on that specific 4th of July, 1944-----we heard of our Marines success in a particular Battle over some Island, and my Mom cried, and I understood en ough to know they were worried my brother had been in that particular battle---guess maybe it was a week or so later , we got a letter from my brother, stating he was in good health, and for the first time that I can recall, I put it all together, the War, the rationing, My Brother fighting in the Marines, My mom being ill ---I kinda grew up a lot that 4th of July. (My mother refused to stay in the hospital for treatment, wanting to wait for the war to end, and my brother, her first born, to come safely home, before she would accept treatment)---Frank did come home , safe and in good health, some many monthes later---but by then, the cancer had progressed to far---I lost my mother the following year.

So needless to say I find the Holiday, the 4th of July , a mix of both Good and bad memories---Good for the Country and the display of Pride in our Troops as well as the History of our Democracy---but at the same time-----on a personal level----well there ya have it. One 4th of July in my life.

I'm sorry if my 4th of July story is a downer----but you all wanted a personal story---and that's what this is--------. Rose told me to link it to the blogger talk contest, do for those of you not familiar with Blogger talk here's the link


  1. In this writing, you have expressed something so very personal. Gary I certainly enjoyed the story. Thank you for sharing this with me and the rest of your readers.I can understand why the 4th of July would be a very difficult time for you. You were so young to loose a mother.

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us Gary. I can certainly see and understand why the 4th of July is difficult for you. I share that with you and will be thinking of you on that day!

  3. This was a wonderful story Gary. Very touching and it shows a part of American family history that should not be forgetten. Not having been there myself, this helps me to appreciate how the times back then have helped to shape those that lived through it. Some insight as it were.

    I'm quite sorry to hear how young you were when you lost your mother. That must have been quite hard.

    Thank you for opening up a part of your life to us and sharing. It was well said.

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