J. Carl Cooper
J. Carl Cooper grew up in Chestertown on Philosopher’s Terrace with a father who was a banker and a mother who was a homemaker. The United States joined the war when Carl was 11 years old. Throughout the war, Carl delivered newspapers and learned about the war through the headlines. His family had a garden before and after the war and canned throughout the war.
In this interview, Carl recounts stories about Pearl Harbor, working in the Boy Scout troop as well as working on his paper route. Carl also speaks about his experiences in Chestertown and school during the war. He discusses his continuing distrust of the Japanese into the current era. He also recalls rationing, scrap metal drives, and President Roosevelt (FDR). Carl Cooper goes on to speak about his life after the war and his career during the Vietnam War as a mortician.
Hearing about Pearl Harbor
My father was the head of a boy scout troop and we had gone down into the woods and we were working on building a fireplace, a brick fireplace on our cabin and when we came home, we found out about Pearl Harbor and to this day—I don’t know if it’s any—if the cabin still there or not, but where the motor was in the brick was real white that- and stayed that way. I don’t know anymore about it than that.
Rationing: Buying and Selling Cigarettes
Rations, oh yeah, yeah we had rations, had coupons. Now, this isn’t something to tell you that when I was a kid delivering papers, cigarettes were hard to get. So, when I delivered papers, every store I went into I’d buy a pack of cigarettes. I could buy a pack of cigarettes for a quarter or I could sell a pack of cigarettes for five dollars. So, I worked the paper route and the cigarette collection at the same time.
Remembering FDR and His Wife
Q: When he died, do you remember hearing about that?
Yeah I remember him passing away, but I can’t remember where I was at the time. He had run for a third term. Presidents were only allowed to run for two terms and he had run for a third. I remember Eleanor. She was not a very beautiful lady, but she was good I mean I’m not saying that, she just was not beautiful. I remember in 1934, I used to live on Queens street back then and I remember President Roosevelt came into town here and electioned here and he rode through and all that.
Q: Do you have any memory of Victory Gardens?
Victory gardens! Oh yeah, we had one. I lived down on Philosopher’s Terrace. We had a right good size lot behind us. Of course I didn’t know whether it was called a Victory garden. They called them Victory gardens then, but we’d plow up in the backyard and plant things and at the very end, why, we had a grape vine and they made pretty good wine
Scrap Metal Drives
I remember at one time during the first part of the war, they had scrap drives and down here between the Episcopal church and the end of that park, that was all full of scrap. They brought scrap in from all over the place and, you know then we moved it out. I mean it was what did they call it a metal drive.