Recorded in 1996
All in our family, all three kids were really Depression babies. And it was tough for most families even to make a living, but my dad worked as a county auditor, which was an elected position, so he had a salary all during this time. So we didn't know anything like standing in bread lines and all that kind of thing but times were really tough and when they brought in gasoline rationing at one point and also sugar rationing it kind of curbed people's style and so we couldn't travel as much and we were even more homebodies after that.
I started school when I was five and my mother had to go down and fight for me because my birthday's in January, and you weren't supposed to start, I was past, I was too young to start in the year that I did start but she pleaded that I was a pretty good size and tall for my age and bright so why couldn't I begin, and I did.
Then when I was a junior in high school I discovered that if I took one more course, one more three or four credit hours, I could graduate from high school the same year that my older sister did, so I did that. I took a correspondence course in history and that's when it enabled me to graduate from high school in 1948. And that same summer I spent working as a waitress in College Camp, Wisconsin. And that's where I met my husband-to-be, he was a waiter and I was a waitress.
Then I went back and enrolled in Valley City State teacher's college and I took two years of training there. After that you were qualified at that time to teach school in Minnesota, so I got what's called that standard teaching certificate and I got a job in a little town in Bainville, Montana, just across the line from Williston, North Dakota. And my sister was hired also and so we went to explore the wild, wild west. It was a little, little town; you'd have to look quick to find it as you cross that northern part of Montana. We were close to Indian reservation, Plentywood. And it was a neat experience because it was a little, little town and I was hired to teach all the music in the whole school. They didn't have a kindergarten but first grade through high school and I had both orchestral and vocal music but it was quite a year and being that young I didn't know how little I really did know and I went right, forged right ahead and had a really good time.
Then we decided after one year at that school that we would go on to get our degrees, so we went to Ohio State, applied for entrance there and were accepted, my sister and I, and we took our advanced work then, or the rest of the degree work there, two more years and graduated from their School of Education.
You know when I was talking about what a remarkable woman my mother really was, she really pressed for us to go onto college because she said that's something you can never take away from a person, is college education. So they were very helpful and provided a lot of the money that was necessary. After our year of teaching though before we went to Ohio State we had saved funds of our own from that teaching year so we could help out a little bit there too.
Then after I got my college degree the same year I got married. My husband was still in the army so we started out in Fort Benning, Georgia on the base there living on base housing and he had about six months left of that and then after he got through we took an extended trip through the south and visited some relatives and so on and so forth and then got back on up and then he got his job in Chagrin, no it wasn't Chagrin yet, it was, yes it was, we moved to Chagrin Falls, Ohio and got our first little home and he had a job at Orange Elementary School.
Things were seemingly pretty prosperous really, but on a teacher's salary we couldn't really fly too high because when we started talking about getting our home, the realtor told us that there were only three homes that she could show us that were within our price range at all but Dean's job was in a very wealthy community, Shaker Heights, in that area and so we were sort of displaced. We were living in a more wealthy community than our funds really allowed. But we really enjoyed our stay there in Chagrin. And we lived in Chagrin Falls up until 1969 when we moved to Rochester, Minnesota. And then I started teaching.
I thought of something else that had happened when we were young kids, must have been about the time of the second World War. In order to economize, the County Register of Deeds talked to my dad who was County Auditor and the two of them bought a cow. I guess my father financed the cow and the other fellow and his family were mostly responsible for taking care of it and milking it. That was an economy measure because the Register of Deeds had about six kids to support and that was one way that they tried to make ends meet and another was a lot of reliance upon gardening and my mother really, really enjoyed anything to do with vegetable gardening and had a huge garden and they would can and do a lot of preservation that way.
The prices, I think, were quite a bit lower. I can remember the postage stamp for instance I can remember a 3 cent one and now we're up to 32 cents. I think gasoline was about 27 cents a gallon and I think a loaf of bread was something like about 13 or 14 cents. The candy bars that we pay about 49 cents or 45 cents for now were a nickel in my day and age and I can remember because we roller skated up to the courthouse where my dad worked and he'd always give us a nickel and that was either an ice cream cone or a candy bar and that was sort of a daily occurrence. And I can remember talking about the need to conserve energy and from time to time they would practice a blackout procedure which would mean nobody was supposed to have any lights on and I can recall that and feeling a little scared about the whole thing and wondering if the bombs were going to come and fall over our country.
I was about nine years old when Pearl Harbor happened. I was on my way to the little church that was about a block from where I lived and I remember I heard the news and I was so astounded and I also was afraid because I had no idea about the extent of what was going to happen. They just talked about the loss of life and the devastation there and I thought well what in the world does this mean as far as our life in America is concerned.
And then I can remember listening to the president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president at the time, he was famous for his fireside chats and he was on radio very regularly and everybody was pretty much glued to hear what he had to say. I can remember too when he died and Harry Truman was to be his successor and wondering if he was up to the task and when the armistice came just a little while after that, or the cease fire, whichever you'd want to say, it just seemed too bad that Roosevelt, who had worked so hard for this whole cause wasn't there to really experience the cessation of the warfare.
When the decision was made to bomb Hiroshima, everybody was really, really shook up about that and wondered if that was an appropriate thing to do but it really did bring, I believe must have resulted in loss of, a saving of the lives because the war was ended much, much sooner. But that was an earth shaking type of thing in more ways than one.
In our little town for entertainment there really wasn't a whole lot of offerings, there was a pool hall but it was sort of regarded as not a good place to be as far as our family was concerned. Kids would like to gather at the pool hall and they would have some community sponsored things at Halloween, there was community sponsored things and at other times there would be, and most of the things that we wanted to do, movies were even kind of a novelty for awhile although they were coming out as were the cartoon serials that were used from week to week to get you to want to get to the local. Movies were rather new. I can remember when the theater came into town and I remember it cost about a quarter to go.
Memorial Day was always observed to the hilt in that little town where I grew up and the American Legion and the American Legion auxiliary, the ladies branch of it were very active and there always was great emphasis put upon the speeches that they would make that day in the auditorium and then the kids would pair up with their legionnaire parents and move through the cemeteries and place a little poppy or some marker, some tribute to soldiers that were there. And then the buglers would be there playing Taps and the soldiers would be shooting off their weapons as it were, and it was fun to go hunt for the shells when they were through with their salutes. And then after that we would go from one little town to another little town probably hit about five towns in all so it was a big, big day and then there was community eating; people would just bring potluck that went along with that celebration.
I don't remember so much about the style of clothing although I believe it was on the long side, the dresses that is, and I remember the bell bottom look, the flaring of the leg in the pants and also tennis shoes were a biggie, saddle shoes, you had to have a saddle shoe to be really classy in style. Black and white and the brown too, little stretch of that color.
The schools, I went to, it wasn't the so-called country school, we had a grade school from first through high school all in one complex and I remember that we were able to get a new gymnasium which was quite a feat because funds were so strapped going though the war and the depression and so forth but the community members worked a lot on helping with the project. They would be up there sanding and boarding, pounding on boards and putting things together and doing a lot of the work themselves.
And now that I mention that, I remember that my dad went on out with the other volunteers to help in the fields because a lot of the guys, the young men, were off to war so they would have crews going out to shock the grain. And I guess why that sticks in my memory is because my dad had had an injury in his shoulder when he was in the first World War, shrapnel had entered one side of his body and come out the other side of his shoulder and he had been so incapacitated by this that he wasn't supposed to be doing this work, but he felt a patriotic urge to do so anyway. Everybody had bought into that slogan that that war was the war to end all wars and so it was a very patriotic thing to get involved in it. And my dad was 35 when he enlisted for the army, for the first World War and he was too old to really be taken, to be drafted, but because he enlisted, they took him anyway and he only got six weeks of training and then off to the foreign fields and he received his wound in battle in France in the Argonne forest.
Anything for activities, sometimes it was to put together, to help put together little kits that would be like the Red Cross kits that would be helping out people, I don't know whether they were soldiers or other people in need, I think they were to go to the servicemen and there was a list of general things that we should contribute and then we boxed them up and helped get those off where they were supposed to go. As I mentioned before, the activities were kind of group oriented. There was a lot of involvement in the scouting movement and a lot of kids were into that. Being a rural community a lot of people I grew up with were active in the 4-H and the activities that they would promote.
Cruising up and down whatever main street that little town I lived in was a sport way back then too when we were able to drive. Forman, North Dakota with its 500 people and sometimes we had to cruise over to neighboring towns because we got tired of the little main street when we were able to drive.
And I didn't have any formal Drivers Ed, that wasn't available back then as far as I knew. But my dad taught me how to drive. I had one funny thing happen, when we went around the first corner I didn't release the steering wheel so I promptly drove right into the ditch and my dad was some upset with this but he was a gentle man so he didn't give up on me.
The other favorite thing to do would be to go to the fairgrounds and drive around the racetrack for experience and I don't know, I think I was only 13 or 14 when I was doing all of this and I don't even remember the first driver's license but there wasn't too much attached to it just when we felt we were ready.
The war really didn't affect our living arrangements all that much. We had our, we stayed in the same little home that my folks had paid for and my dad having an elected position really was in much better shape for our family than most because his salary continued through this time. I don't suppose he got any raises but we knew there would be a certain amount of money coming on in so we didn't feel too put upon. I think we were disappointed when we couldn't go to the lake because of the gasoline rationing but other than that, I don't think so.
I'm not sure about the cars. Ours was a Ford, the cars that we drove. And I think maybe the Packards were popular then but I didn't pay too much attention to it. Tommy Murphy, who owned an oil station in town had a car that had a rumble seat in it, it was a convertible and we thought that was really pretty snappy. And then of course running boards were a big thing because the roads were less than terribly well up kept.
My parents were both active in the auxiliaries and they would volunteer for whatever cause was coming up like we were mentioning the Red Cross wanting assistance. Rolling bandages was one thing. So they got involved in various patriotic ways. Well, in retrospect everybody was happy that that war ended of course and yet it's interesting to note that it didn't have a totally positive effect upon the country because the economy tended to slip and lose a little ground when dollars weren't being invested in missiles or airplanes or warheads or whatever and the plants that made these things would be closing and so jobs would be lost. It seems too bad that you have to think of warfare being something that spurs an economy on with those kinds of things. So there was tremendous relief that the war was over and yet sort of as you move along sort of a little bit of a disillusionment because you realize that yes we were supposed to be done with warfare but doesn't seem to be the case.
We did hear about Germany and the Holocaust and it was just unspeakable. Just an unspeakable thing. You couldn't even imagine the atrocities that they talked about. My dad from the first World War that he was involved in had some newspapers that he had saved and the family didn't know about it until he died but they were so gruesome that instead of really hanging onto those I think we destroyed them. Very vivid pictures and it certainly was first resource history but it was just awful. I don't think it hit the schoolbooks all that much. I think maybe it was too recent. Oh yeah there would always be some little catch up with overseas in the newspapers and at that time television was still kind of a beginning industry as you would say so I don't remember so much from the televisions but we did get those updates with FDR's radio broadcasts, his fireside chats, and the radio seemed to be the chief source to try to keep us posted.
I don't remember too much about the internment camps except that some of the Japanese I remember being just wrested, the paper talking about them being just wrested from their homes and put into these places and strangely at the time I think most everybody bought into that for our own safety that wasn't too bad of a thing to be doing.
Yes, I do recall the patriotic songs that would rise up, among them would be "Rosie the Riveter," is an example of this. Because a lot of the women were going into the defense industries to provide the weapons and everything else that needed to be done.
Yes, I think we were involved in scrap drives. That was just to save material that could be, as we would say today, recycled so that they could be used again. Probably aluminum would have been one of them that we collected and tin cans.
You know, I don't really remember what the saving stamps were but I remember that we did go through that. It might have been like to buy bonds like a savings bond that you could buy a stamp for a certain amount and when you got your stamp book full you could turn it into a bond. And the schools promoted this, this way of doing it.
Many, many families had the victory gardens. Practically everybody because it was necessary to supplement. Yes, there would have been working together, as I mentioned that instance when they would be shocking the grain for the farmers and helping to harvest the crops and that kind of thing, a lot of cooperation in that kind of thing. All kinds of vegetables. All kinds. Lettuce and cucumbers and tomatoes, squash - you name it and it would be not only planted but tenderly cared for and preserved. No, it was not for commercial, it was just for one's own family. And probably anybody else that you feel called upon to share with. We had to shop for other things, there were a couple of little stores in town or we had to supplement with that and sometimes families would go together and get what they'd call a side of beef that they could share if they had a proper way to freeze it.
Sometimes with this harvesting thing, because I grew up in the Dakotas, there'd be a group of people that would follow the harvest and they would just work their way down through Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas and so forth, harvesting all the way along. Sometimes there were kids that would be coming into the communities to help with this too, young people. The CCC was an organization that trained people not only in forestry type things and conservation but they would do various other projects sometimes even building projects.
Roosevelt put in what was called WPA that was building projects like for schools that needed to be built or hospitals or whatever. And that was called Works Progress Administration and a lot of people came through the ranks of that. Communities would benefit, and the boys that were a part of that sometimes lived together, the young men, in a barracks type thing as far as I can tell. But anyway, they worked together and put in a certain segment of their time to do that.