Louise Widdup was born in 1928 in what was a rural town named Clarksville in Howard County, MD. She was 13 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Her dad had an insurance company before the war, but then worked in a General Motors defense plant during the war. Her mother ran the household which also served as a boarding house for school teachers. She now resides at Heron Point in Chestertown, MD.
In her interview, Louise describes her teachers going off to war, some of whom boarded with her and her family from 1940 to 1945. When discussing school, she speaks about her math teacher who was a pilot that joined the war to fly planes, and her music teacher who joined the Women’s Army Corps. Girls in her school were taken to the Naval Academy. She also discusses men in her college in 1944 who were in ROTC which included her boyfriend. In talking about her family, she discusses rationing, her family’s involvement in airplane spotting, and her husband’s experience with a sniper.
Unity During the War
I have never seen a country or never known of a country that got together like it did at that time. Everybody pitched in, in some way or form. I mean, I was a child, but most everybody felt that they had to do something or that they should pitch in. They should do this or they should do that, they should make socks, or they should whatever they could do to help the, you know, going on. But part of it was that you had to keep your families going. You had to try to get them the best education you could. Or people that worked, did jobs at night, and as you know, that was when women started to work too. That would be the biggest thing, for me anyway.
Teachers Boarding in the House
We had these teachers that graduated from McDaniel. So they both came from there, and they become teachers at our small community high school. And we had no motels, no places to stay. So the community came to my mother because she was a young woman and they thought maybe she could do it, would she please take in two school teachers which she did. There was time when we had five women and one man in our house with one bathroom. [laughs]. My father got up and went to the defense contract early so he got out of the house. But there were two teachers, me, mother, and another girl at that time in the house. And mother did that through—this was before the war —it started—it’s ’38 or ’39, and she continued to do that until ’45. And we had some wonderful teachers, and my parents were great folks so we kept in contact with almost all the teachers. That’s why I know where they went, and what they did.
Absolutely. Particularly gas because we were a fair good distance from towns so getting to go to the stores was a trip with gas that we used up a lot. And then my father, when he had to go in to the defense contract, he took the only car we had, used it to get it and the gas. So gas was a particular problem. My parents butchered, so we didn’t have as much trouble with butter because we had our own Crisco. But I would say the gas, butter, meats, as I said we had some of our own because we butchered, but beef was not too available, and we had no fish of any kind at that time.
Teachers Going off to War
We had some very excellent teachers at our small school when I was in elementary and early high school. And we lost most of them who went into the war. One of them became a WAC. My music teacher became a WAC. A WAC was Women’s Army Corps, I guess was that, and she went in. She was a music teacher so she went into the music part of entertaining in the war, so they would have choruses, I guess, I don’t know exactly but that was what she was a— college music graduate. And one of our other teachers who was my math teacher, she was a pilot, and she flew planes from the East Coast to the West Coast in the beginning of the war. They were trying to get planes out there because they were afraid the Japanese were going to go into the West Coast of the United States. So they had women fly the planes out there but the women could not go into combat. I happened to know both of them personally. I was very interested in what they did. We also lost a man teacher that who went into the Air Force. I didn’t follow up on him. The two teachers I did follow up on. But I will say this—that I missed a really high school education because of the fact that we had mostly substitute teachers in high school during the war. And so I got a very poor high school education, found it very difficult when I went to college. They were substitutes, but not prepared, no. And I will admit I didn’t want to study that much so I didn’t, and I didn’t have to.
Changes in Howard County
Howard County was a farming community. It is now probably developed as much as you can develop it. We had a farm, and we started looking to leave there in the 70s because they were going to build this community called Columbia. And so at that time we picked up and moved down here to Chestertown. It is now highly developed, a very much suburb. They have a tremendous amount of Orientals there now, particularly South Koreans. And they have a school system and that’s one of the reasons they came there. It’s a highly developed but really nice community still. But all the farms are gone. Most of them, anyway, most of them. It’s really changed, I hardly know my way around up there now.
Husband’s service at Saipan
While he was on Saipan, he had someone—he was in a car, and had a Japanese guy kill another man in the car—sniper. So he saw that, but a lot of the things they didn’t talk about that much, you know?