Marie Mack was born in 1919 to the Petersen family, who lived in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Marie’s family started spending summers in Mount Sinai, on the North Shore of Long Island, in 1924. She married in 1941 and left work to care for her newborn daughter the following year. Her husband was drafted shortly afterwards and went on to serve in the Army Air Force in Australia during World War II. While he was stationed overseas, Marie moved back in with her parents and resumed working at New York Life Insurance. She also sold war bonds and served as an air raid warden. After the war, Marie left work to resume raising her family.
In this interview, Marie recounts the early days of her life in Brooklyn, as well as the summers her family spent on Long Island. She shares her experiences as a working woman during the war years as well, as well as her memories of patrolling the streets as an air raid warden and participating in war bond drives.
Serving As an Air Raid Warden
I had a block to patrol [during the] air raid drills. I had my helmet and my flashlight, and I patrolled the block. And if you saw any lights on in any house, you had to go up to the doorbell, ring the doorbell, and say, “Please put your lights out.” It was a complete blackout. We used to have drills: blackout drills.
CK: How often would they do that?
I don’t remember anymore. But there were several; there were several. You knew when there was one coming because then the sirens would go off.
CK: And what was Brooklyn like when there was a blackout?
Quiet. It was really very eerie quiet. [pauses] You could hear the—what do you call it on a ship? The whistles blowing.
CK: From the ships out in New York Harbor?
Yeah, you know, out in the Hudson River. In the city, you could hear that, just that sound.
V-E Day Block Party
Yeah, that I remember. Because when that [V-E Day] happened, I was home from work already. And there was a big block party; the whole block. You know, like a city block. All of the food came out; all the beer came out. Everything came out [for] that; everybody was in the street.
And the next day, I stayed home; I didn’t go to work. And when I went back to work; say it was Tuesday. Because I didn’t come to work, they docked my pay. [laughs] I lost my pay, big pay. I was getting $100 a month. [laughs]
“I Have Three Things to Tell You”
I didn’t want to meet him [my husband] at home because I had done things that he probably wouldn’t have approved of while he was over there [stationed in Australia]. And I said, “I’ll meet you over at”—I guess it was Penn Station. He was at Fort Dix [Army Base in New Jersey]. We took a cab home; I had money for the cab.
And I said, “I have three things to tell you. First of all, I’m working.” [laughs]. “Second of all, I got my driver’s license. And third of all, I rented my grandmother’s apartment on the top floor, so we have an apartment.”