Robert Fox lived in Silver Spring, MD and in Mount Vernon, NY during WWII. His father was in the army and worked on the Manhattan Project as a lawyer.
In this interview, Robert Fox recounts his experiences as a young child on the Hone Front. He participated in many war effort activities such as canning, victory gardens, and rationing. He discusses magazines that published articles and photos of the Holocaust in the weeks following the end of the war and how anti-Semitism was prevalent in his Catholic Church. He also tells of a couple that fled the Nazis and became important people in his life during and after the war.
The main thing you did when the first crops came in—just as they do now [laughs]—is you would get the canner out. I still have the canner: made in 1939. And you got a new rubber ring for it. It’s a big one: seven quart. And you had to replace it every fifty years.
And there’s only one place I could find where you could get that and it’s in West Virginia—of course, where else would it be? So I could order two of them five years ago.
But I’ll can, maybe sixty or seventy quarts of tomatoes. And it’s all based on what you did during the war. Mom’s several sisters came east. And I spent, I swear, from June through September propped up in a stool in the kitchen, just watching them can. That’s how you ate.
Visiting Glen Echo after V-E Day
V-J Day and V-E Day—oh lordy. V-E Day: Victory over Europe. That was on May 10, 1945. That was the official day; actually, it was May 9. But then, Stalin objected and so they redid. Check your history; you’ll see that they had to redeclare victory over Europe on May 10.
So on May 11 or 12—. For some reason, the folks who are in motion from living in one place—no, we didn’t move from New York. I think we were moving houses—moving back into the house or something. So I was staying with my dad’s pal. And we all went to Glen Echo.
Do you know what Glen Echo is? It’s on the Potomac [River]. It’s near Potomac, Maryland. It’s a Chautauqua. Do you remember what the Chautauqua were—these religious places, way back when? And it became an amusement park and we went there because they opened it up, all of the lights on—oh, wow. Yeah, wow, what a night. From the eyes of a seven year old, you know. Oh lordy, that was something.
Escaping from Brussels
I’ll go back a little bit: 1940. There was a couple in Brussels, Belgium. He was a Labor Party leader, so it had to been around 1939. He fled the Nazis, along with his wife because he’d just written a series of articles in the local newspaper condemning Hitler. Not his best career move.
And so, what was bombed first—was it Rotterdam? I think it was Rotterdam. And one of their parents was killed in that. But I think they were in Brussels. I am thinking of Belgium, so it’s not Rotterdam. Isn’t Rotterdam in Holland?
Well, they fled. And take with the company records. And they got as far as southern France and then, they went to Casablanca. And [then there was] the North African landing.
The reason I am talking about this couple is that eventually, they trekked across the Pyrenees, into Portugal. And they were on the last ship out–the next to last voyage of the last ship out of Portugal: a commercial [vessel] called the Circo Pito. And they end up in New York City, where he had working paper from Mexico. And [they] went to Mexico for six months and wound up back in Mount Vernon, New York. And moved into the apartment across the hall from my parents. And seventy-seven years later, their daughter and I got married.