The War and Daily Life

While the war disrupted many facets of life—like Jane Presser’s high school graduation—it also became incorporated into daily experiences, so much so that Linda Hall asked her mother what types of stories were going to appear on the front page of the newspaper when the country was no longer at war. Sometimes participation was born less out of patriotic fervor, and more out of routine, as illustrated in Donna Ellett’s account of newspaper collection and Douglass Gates’ experience with rationing. Life—and fun—continued to be a part of childhood during the war, although Leona Van Dyke did not go unpunished for using her father’s rationed gasoline to make mudpies in the yard.


Blackout During High School Graduation—Jane Presser

It affected our graduation mostly. The high school students, of course, were not old enough to be in the service. But then graduation night was sort of interesting. You’ll be interested in this because you graduated in the same high school. Moorestown, I would say, is about 60 miles from the shoreline, and we were aware that German submarines did patrol the shoreline. And so, every once in awhile, there would be a blackout, and it would last half an hour, and there would be 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 a week. We were graduating a certain night, and when the bleachers were all [full] in the gymnasium for graduation, and the graduation program started, and lo and behold, blackout. And we’re all on the bleachers, and our parents and friends are all on chairs on the gym floor. So what to do? Well, we sang school songs, and our parents who were from, obviously Moorestown, knew some of the school songs from when they were in school. And, of course, we all knew them very well because we’ve been singing them at football games, and so we sat there for the next half hour and sang Moorestown High School songs. Then the lights went on.

The Newspaper—Linda Hall

I remember asking my mother, “What’s on the front page of the newspapers when there is no war on?” That’s all I’d ever seen, all I’d ever seen. She would say, “Well, you know, they put the local news and put that on the front page then.”

Newspaper Collection for the War Effort—Donna Ellett

KP: When you said you collected the newspapers to have them—

We turned them in and some truck came and got ‘em. I don’t know what it was used for, but that was quite a thing. The paper drive was always a big deal, and the Cub Scouts always collected them. All we ever heard was, “It’s for the war effort.” So I don’t know what they actually did with the newspapers or why we collected them, but I’m sure they had a purpose. But I don’t know what it was.

KP: So, you had no idea, you just—

No, we just did it. [laughs] Everybody collected newspapers; newspaper collection was a thing.

KP: You would collect them at each home?

Yeah, we would go around the houses and collect them. And then we’d bundle them up. I can remember tying them up with string in so many packages, and then taking them to the school. Then a truck would come and pick them up and take them wherever they took them and do whatever they did with them.

KP: Did you and your brother ever question it?

No. When you’re ten years old, you don’t really think about it. They just said, “Collect newspapers,” so we collected newspapers. [laughs]

Childhood and the War—Douglass Gates

You know, on the one hand, when I think back on it, we were fairly protected from it for the most part except to the extent that we were cheerleaders. I think that that was pretty effective, the way in which that happened. Being four square in favor of the war and killing Japanese and killing Germans and getting it over so Uncle John could come back home. Never felt really deprived. I think the whole thing about rationing and so forth seemed to be more of a game that we played, that we participated in. “Oh, well, we can’t do that.” Or we—“Uncle Joe wants to borrow the car.” “Well,” my father says, “Well, make sure he puts gas in it and uses his own ration stamps so I don’t have to use mine.” You know all that was sort of a game. That’s how I remember it, not so much as a tragedy that it was for so many people. Not so much of a happy game, but, you know, something you participated in, and yet you were so remote from it, protected from it.

Making Mudpies with Rationed Gasoline—Leona Van Dyke

The gasoline, for example. I grew up in Dorchester County, so I grew down the road a bit, on a farm. My father once a month would go down to Federalsburg and get his monthly allotment for gas and oil for – you didn’t have the type of farming equipment you have now-a-days, you had horses, but you also did have a tractor here and there and of course trucks. One thing I will never forget is he went one day to get his allotment and he came home and he was very busy and instead of putting it away he put it under a tree out in the backyard, and I was very good at making mud pies. (Laughter) I spent quite a bit of time making mud pies out of those cans I can still remember them because I got a hand to my backside when he decided that I should have known better. I used it all.

Did you feel like you should have known better? I mean, were you told what was going on?

I was probably 6, mud pies were okay, because farm kids did all sorts of things like that. Dig a hole, get some water, and make mud pies, and do all kinds of things; it was a favorite pastime! And so if you had fuel or oil in a can, well, that made it even better than the water!