Monday, March 2, 2015

The Geneva USO and WWII

By Anne Dealy, Director of Education and Public Information

View of the USO building in Geneva
The building at the corner of Main and Seneca Streets was converted into Geneva's USO Club in in 1943.

World War II is often described as a war in which everyone in the entire nation geared up and did their part for the war effort. In Geneva this can be seen most plainly in the establishment and running of the USO Club.
During World War I, organizations like the YMCA and Salvation Army provided social services to soldiers and sailors. In anticipation of the U.S. entry into World War II, President Roosevelt authorized the creation of a private non-profit organization to serve military personnel in February of 1941. The YMCA and Salvation Army joined with the YWCA, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board to form the United Service Organizations for National Defense, or USO. Responsibility for locating, furnishing and renovating buildings fell to the military, while the six service organizations controlled the USO's operations. The purpose of the USO was to build morale by providing men and women in military service and defense workers with “wholesome and healthful” recreation opportunities and a “home away from home.” An unstated goal was to provide social alternatives to bars and brothels for servicemen.

A soldier and sailor dance with young women holding shamrocks.
Servicemen enjoy a St. Patrick's Day dance at the USO.
The USO was originally designed to serve small American communities like Geneva that could not handle the influx of servicemen and defense workers that came with the building of large military bases and factories. In 1942 Geneva was already under strain from the construction of the Seneca Army Depot and Sampson Naval Training Station. The USO would be essential when the naval recruits or boots began arriving in October 1942. The Geneva USO council was formed in August, chaired by H.E. Hovey and made up of local representatives from the six service organizations, a rep from Sampson, and several community members.

Three sailors sitting at a card table with a young woman.
Jennie Hill plays cards with sailors in Geneva's first USO club at the Masonic Temple.
In September 1942, the Federal Security Agency purchased 361 South Main Street, the former Methodist Church building, which had most recently been an auto showroom and garage, and began refurbishing it to be the USO canteen. In the meantime, the USO opened a temporary club at the Masonic Temple across the street. The club had a grill where service members could get a 10 cent hamburger or a sandwich at cost. Dances were held there, although the space was so small there was barely room to jitterbug. Local volunteers provided homemade cookies, cakes, and pies, and the temporary club was furnished with donations from local businesses and residents.
Sailors and young women enjoy cookies from a a cookie jar.
Sailors and junior hostesses enjoy cookies at the USO snack bar.
By the time the new USO building was dedicated on June 19, 1943, the Geneva club had already served 100,000 servicemen. The new building had even more to offer, with a snack bar, reading rooms, darkroom, record room and game rooms for tennis and checkers. Sailors could call home for free or just take a break from the base. In addition to a few paid USO staffers, Geneva volunteers did most of the work. Nearly every church, fraternal and social club, community service organization, and major employer contributed time and money to the USO and its activities. Committees were devoted to dusting, flower decorations, transportation, cookies, refreshments and hostessing. Volunteers drove the Sampson band to the USO for dances and gave hostesses rides home after them. Geneva’s barbers made a spaghetti supper for the sailors and other volunteers helped sailors record their voices on records to send home.
Sailors at the Geneva USO recording messages on records to send back home.
Artists Elizabeth Rose Carson, Norman Kent and Elizabeth Boswell volunteered to sketch servicemen at the USO. On July 25, 1944 Carson wrote in her diary, “I did 11 (or more) portrait sketches of young sailors at USO today. I worked steadily nearly 4 ½ hours & loved it.” She loved it so much she sometimes forgot to come home from the USO and had to be reminded by her family to return at dinnertime.
Group of five young women wearing USO armbands
A group of the Geneva USO's junior hostesses: Catherine Salem, Betty Flick, Ruth Putnam, Leah Aynault, Jane Boughton and Lillian Dresser (seated)
The hostesses were what everyone remembered about the USO. There were two kinds of hostess. Senior hostesses were usually women over 35 who took on the role of mother figure at the Club. These women were the chaperones for social activities; they baked, sewed and gave advice to servicemen. They also recommended younger women as junior hostesses. Junior hostesses were usually single, and acted as companions for visiting servicemen, playing games, talking and dancing with them. One trainer reminded junior hostesses that their duties “are the same as those of a hostess at home—to greet her guests, to circulate among them, to be concerned that all guests should have a good time…and to be a good conversationalist.” She warned them “that girls who go to the USO for men, music and fun only will not last six months, and do not belong in the USO.” Although dating between military personnel and hostesses was discouraged, it did occur, and more than one hostess married a man she met at the USO. Most women, however, felt hostessing was a way to contribute to the war effort and do their part, while having a good time. Hostesses often had husbands, sons or brothers in the service and really wanted to provide a home away from home for men like the ones they knew and loved.

Sailors being served at the USO snack bar.
The USO, perhaps more than other efforts during the war years, was a true community labor in Geneva. Much of the organization’s work was done by women. It enabled women who weren’t willing or able to work in war industries to contribute to the war effort, using traditional female skills that had been valued before the war. The USO served sailors and soldiers in the community until 1946, when Sampson Naval base was closed. The USO building was purchased by the city and became a community Civic Center in the late 1940s. Today the building still stands and currently houses the offices of Legal Assistance of Western New York.

For more on USO hostesses, see Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun: The Story of USO Hostesses During World War II by Meghan K. Winchell (University of North Carolina Press, December 2008).
and Interview with Meghan K. Winchell.
History of the USO

History and structure of the USO

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Women's Fashions in the 1940s

By Alice Askins, Education Coordinator at Rose Hill Mansion

Fashion changes all the time, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.  In the 1940s, women’s clothing did both at the same time.  In some ways the evolution of women’s fashion stalled for a while because of World War II.  An a-line skirt coming to below the knee, with a broad-shouldered jacket or blouse, persisted as the basic silhouette for women through about 1947.  In other ways, women found new options for dress and clothes for different circumstance.

Joan Crawford, 1940
As you might expect, the war affected fashion in several ways.  Since the 1800s France had led women’s fashion and it fell to the Nazis in 1940.  Some of the big couture houses closed their doors while others tried to stay open, if only to keep their legions of employees in work.  To shop French couture during the war you, however, had to have German permission.  French design took its own course during the occupation, and tended to be on the frivolous side.

The vacuum at the head of the fashion industry gave designers in other countries the opportunity to make names for themselves.  In the United States, designers for films became influential.  Gilbert Adrian and Edith Head both designed clothes for films and for street wear.  Claire McCardell, Norman Norell, and (French-born) Pauline Trigere were other American designers who came to prominence in the 1940s.

The problem for all designers was that food and gas were not the only things rationed.  The war effort imposed limits on the yardage that could be used for garments, the amount of trim you could use, the fibers you could make into civilian clothing (a lot of rayon was used) and even the cut of a skirt or suit.  A skirt hem could be only 2” deep, for instance, and only so many inches in circumference.  Pockets and belt loops were not allowed.  Belts could be only an inch and a half wide.  The allowed circumference for a skirt hem was fairly generous here in the United States (it could be 70”) but most skirts were narrower.  People wanted it to be evident that they were complying with the regulations and helping with the war effort. 

In this P.B. Oakley photograph the women are pointing to their legs to indicate that they are going without stockings.  Nylon also went to the war effort
While fashion was marking time in some ways, it was also expanding a few options for women.  With men gone into the service, many women filled their roles in manufacturing.  The new work demanded appropriate clothing.  It meant that for the first time, large numbers of women got used to wearing pants, overalls, and coveralls.  Turbans, scarves, and snoods appeared first in the factories as women wore them to keep long hair out of machinery.  Soft loafers or moccasins were worn to work on aircraft to prevent dents and scratches on the metal.  Comfortable, functional work styles tended to migrate into women’s off-duty hours. 

P.B. Oakley photograph of women training to run machinery
Despite, or perhaps because of, their foray into “men’s” work, women were still expected to look as pretty as possible.  This was intended to keep up their spirits during a difficult time.  It was also supposed to inspire the men at war to heroic efforts.  Women’s waistlines were always defined in the 1940s.  In Britain, makeup became impossible to obtain during the war years, because it was made from materials valuable to the war effort (like petroleum products and alcohol.)  In the United States, though, makeup was always available and women were expected to wear it.  For women in uniform, there were certain shades of lipstick and rouge required to be worn with them.

With a relaxation in some areas of women’s wear, play clothes developed.  In the early 1940s, these consisted of shorts with skirts worn over them (shorts were too brief to wear by themselves in public).  The removable skirt allowed women to appear in public as though wearing a dress, but to streamline for sports or beachwear.   Later playsuits were skirtless.  Swimsuits continued a long trend toward brevity.  Two-piece suits were popular in the 1940s, and the bikini was designed late in the decade. 

1940s playsuits
After the war, with the easing of restrictions, women’s fashion changed its shape decidedly.  People were ready for a change.  France regained something of its leadership in couture, and French designers introduced a new look in 1947.  Dior generally gets credit for the New Look, but others were showing very similar shapes.  Shoulders became rounded and sloping, waists were nipped in, hips were padded and hemlines dropped again.  Some skirts became very full while some were very narrow.  Shoes had thinner heels and more pointed toes.

The New Look of 1947
Only about 25% of American women kept working after the war.  Some quit to return to domestic duties, while others were fired and replaced by returning men.  Many women who continued to work resumed traditionally feminine jobs in health care, office work, or teaching.  Images of housewives from the late 1940s and 1950s show women wearing the New Look to clean house.  We can assume, though, that most women faced with grubby jobs continued to wear the clothing they found functional for work during the war.  

Don't forget our 1940s USO Canteen is Friday, February 27 at Club 86 from 6:00 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ah, The Movies!!

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

On February 17 Arsenic and Old Lace will be shown for 50ȼ at the Smith as part of an exciting lead up to the USO event the Geneva Historical Society is holding at Club 86 on February 27.  This movie is one of hundreds of feature films produced and released in the 1940s.  They covered all genres, dark comedy like Arsenic and Old Lace, film noir like Hitchcock’s Rebecca, “feel good” films like It’s a Wonderful Life, satiric social commentary such as The Great Dictator with Charlie Chaplin, the classic Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, and comedies like the Road to Morocco starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. 

The stars were ones whose names are still familiar today.  People like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, William Bendix, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Greer Garson, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, Gene Kelley, Maureen O’Hara, Rosalind Russell, Clark Gable, and John Wayne were all performing in the movies and the list goes on and on and on.

We did not go to the movies often when I was a child.  There were few movie theaters, if there were any in the town I grew up in.  The City of Rochester had movie theaters that were really fancy.  One called the Riviera, I finally went to in the mid-1960s, when my friend Pamm and I took our little sisters to see Walt Disney’s Jungle book, (I cried in my popcorn when I thought Ballou, the bear, was killed).  We dressed up to go to the theater that day and it was really special for me since until that day, the only movies I had seen were at the local drive-in theater.

I loved the Lakeshore Drive-In. When I was growing up my father worked for what would be called the Department of Public Works in my hometown of Greece, NY.  At that time, one of the perks for working for the town was a pass to the drive-in and if we were going to see a movie, that is where we went.  My dad did not care for the “great indoors” much so if we could do something outside we went.  I saw some terrific movies at Lakeshore. 

Of course we took the station wagon, blankets, pillows, snacks, and sometimes one of my friends.  We didn’t go frequently since it had to be a movie my father would like and that was suitable for me.  The films that generally fit the bill were Walt Disney animated or live action films. 

What does this have to do with the 1940s?  Well, many of the movies I saw were first released in the 1940s and by the time I saw them at the drive-in for the first time they were just being re-released.  It was like a little child’s idea of heaven.  Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1938- can you name all seven?), was successfully re-released in 1944 beginning the studio’s seven year re-release plan.  Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Fantasia (1941),  and The Three Caballeros (1945) were all released during the war while productions of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Wind in the Willows (all in the beginning stages) were put on hold as Disney Studios worked on training films, propaganda films, and home front morale boosting short films.  Walt Disney himself headed up a group that created insignia for military groups. The first insignia was created about 1933 for a Naval Reserve Squadron stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in New York.  Altogether the insignia designers created 1200 unique insignia for various soldiers and sailors. They were seen as morale boosters and most brought some humor to the men and women who wore them.  Walt Disney said he felt he owed it to the people who were serving.

With three Schine movie theaters in Geneva during the 1940s many of the movies I saw at the drive-in when they were re-released were brand new, seemed glamorous and provided their viewers with the opportunity to escape from the stress of war, rationing, worry, fear and anger.  Ah, the movies.  What a wonderful thing they are!  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Corcoran Family Scrapbook

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

In October I mentioned that Hobart & William Smith Public History students were creating posters on aspects of Geneva and World War II. The posters were on display from November to mid-December. Issues ranged from labor shortages during the war to the German POW camp on Pre-Emption Street, but a number of students focused on the social scene and nightlife during that time. Two basic questions that motivated them were: what was Geneva like during the war, and how did people stay happy?

Eric Lewis loaned us a family scrapbook that addresses the students’ questions. It documents his grandparents Francis George Corcoran and Marion McGuigan before and after they were married.  Frank joined the Navy in November 1943 and was sent 15 miles away to Sampson for basic training.

The photos were all taken outside in a neighborhood so they don’t show us much in the way of Geneva during the war. However, they seem to be large gatherings of family and friends, a pastime neither rationed nor prohibited. Frank was fortunate to be close enough to home to be part of festivities when on leave from basic training.

As for happiness, people continued to fall in love and get married, as Frank and Marion did on May 18, 1944. Frank was still stationed in the US and had leave to come back to Geneva for the wedding. The many photos look like any wedding, regardless of events in Europe and the Pacific.

The scrapbook has numerous postcards and some letters. Servicemen and women had free postage privileges but national security limited about what they could write. Most cards are about missing the recipient or the monotony of service: drilling, waiting to drill, or waiting for mail. Once shipped overseas, one’s location was limited to “at sea” or “somewhere in Belgium”.

In 1945 things did get interesting for Frank, although it’s not obvious from the way things are presented in the scrapbook. There is a water-stained letter dated “Mar. 14 at sea” and an envelope postmarked Mar. 26 1945 with an address for the USS Franklin. The next page has a typed letter from a friend that said, “I was pleased to learn some of the particulars about your safe return from that inferno that raged on the Franklin…”

The USS Franklin was an aircraft carrier off the coast of Japan that was attacked by a single plane on March 19, 1945. Two bombs dropped on the centerline and aft sections that ripped through several decks, setting off fires and explosions. Official Navy casualty figures were 724 killed and 265 wounded; some historians feel the toll was higher. The ship sustained the second largest naval casualties of the war, after the USS Arizona that was hit at Pearl Harbor.

Like many survivors, Frank jumped into the ocean, with the letter in his pocket, and was picked up by another ship. The letter was eventually mailed when the survivors reached Pearl Harbor.

Frank survived the war, came to Geneva, and raised a family. The later photos of family life illustrate something World War II veterans talk about: they did their duty but then they just wanted to get home and get on with their lives. Only in hindsight have many veterans appreciated the scope of their contributions.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Picking Up The Farming Slack in Geneva During World War II

The following material was part of display last fall by John Marks’ Public History class at Hobart and William Smith.

By Cormac McKenna

During World War II, there were many jobs that were being used to aid the war effort. Some of these include railroad workers, foundry workers, fisheries, and farmers. Under the Selective Service and Training Act, farmers (along with the other industries) were not drafted if their trade was necessary to aid the war effort. Many times this was ignored and men in these fields were drafted anyways. Ignoring the Selective Service Act caused labor shortages starting with dairy farms. Local SSA boards had to make decisions on who was necessary to stay, and many times the migrant workers were the ones being drafted into the service. The guide the SSA used showed what foods were necessary to keep growing, and how many acres or heads of animals were necessary to keep that farmer from the war.

By the end of the war, there were almost 1,000 men who were enlisted in the army from Geneva. The loss of these men caused a drop in people who were able to work. While the men from Geneva were being drafted for the war, over one  hundred of military officers from the nearby Sampson military base started moving in. They took up housing in apartment buildings in Geneva. The addition of these military officers led to a misleading boom in population. In reality, the loss of the men from Geneva to the war was very problematic for the farming in the area.

Italian Prisoners of war being shown to their quarters at the State Armory in Geneva to work on farms.
Prisoners of war were used by the masses in New York State during World War II. During the war from about 1944 to 1946, 4,500 POW’s were put to work in labor camps to farm crops that would later help aid American servicemen fighting in the war. Out of those, Geneva hosted 129 Italian POW’s and 279 German POW’s to help harvest carrots, beans, beets, and cabbages. The help from these men was very important to the war effort because about 600 Genevans were volunteering in the war effort, including male farmers.

Many students in Geneva were used as laborers during the war. At first it was only college students and their teachers being recruited to help out on the farms. Before 1942, Geneva school students were also being asked to work in the fields until later legislature disallowed it. These students helped harvesting tomatoes, beets, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, and apples. Students of either gender were selected to work in the fields as they were all seen as capable of doing the same amount of work. The students played a key role in helping with the labor shortages.

With men being drafted to go off to war, women played a crucial part in the U.S. They took on many of the roles in the workforce that were left vacant from men joining in the services. Farms were very important food sources for the men serving in the war. The draft started to take too many men off the farms so in their absence, many women were used to work on the farms. They helped keep the economy stable with their labor in the fields, harvesting thousands of pounds of crops to be sent to the front lines. In Geneva, many women picked up the slack of labor shortages by working in the fields and also working in canneries, canning certain foods needed for the war including tomatoes and cherries.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Little Golden Books

By Kerry Lippincott, Executive Director

Page from Baby Dear

I’m sure everyone has their favorite Little Golden Book.  Mine is Baby Dear.   In the story a little girl receives a baby doll the same day her baby sister comes home from the hospital, and she and her mother take care of their babies together.  I was simply fascinated by Baby Dear and to be perfectly honest I wanted to be the little girl in the book.  With three nieces another generation of Lippincotts will enjoy Baby Dear as well.

My Little Golden Book memory were sparked by a recent traveling exhibit at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, Golden Legacy: 65 Years of Golden Books.  During lectures that accompanied the exhibit, I discovered two things.  First, Little Golden Books debuted during World War II.  Second, one of the series’ illustrators lived in Canandaigua.

Prior to the publication of Little Golden Books, pictures books were basically considered a luxury.   Priced between $2 and $3 dollars, picture books were mainly sold at Christmas or available at the library.  Little Golden Books revolutionized publishing by offering inexpensive ($0.25 per book) yet attractive and durable picture books to the masses.   On October 1, 1942 Simon and Schuster released the first 12 books – The Three Little Kittens, Bedtimes Stories, The Alphabet From A to Z, Mother Goose, Prayers for Children, The Little Red Hen, Nursery Songs, The Pokey Little Puppy, The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, Baby’s Book, The Animals of Farmer Jones and The Little Piggy.  Of the original titles only one is still in print – The Pokey Little Puppy.  

Also part of Little Golden Books success is the stories and illustrations.  Noted for her water color and color pencil illustrations of children, Eloise Wilkin (1904-1987) would illustrate 110 books and 47 of those were Little Golden Books.

Born in Rochester, Wilkin spent most of her childhood in New York City.  At the age of 11 she won a drawing contest hosted by the department store Wanamaker’s.  Her winning picture was a pilgrim returning home.  After graduating from the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (now RIT) in 1923, Wilkin set up an art studio in Rochester with a friend.  Unfortunately, the pair struggled to find work so they moved to New York City where Wilkin found freelance work illustrating school books, paper dolls, and books.  The first book she illustrated was The Shining Hour.  She returned to Rochester in 1930 when she married and took a decade off from illustrating to raise her four children.

In 1944 Wilkin was approached by Simon and Schuster to illustrate for the Little Golden Book series.   Her condition was the ability to work from the family home in Canandaigua.  A system was arranged where her editors would send her the text of a book printed on blank pages.  Wilkin would then sketch her ideas in pencil on each page and send the book back to the editors for comments.  The book would go back and forth until the sketches were finalized.  
Page from My Little Golden Book About God
Illustrating as many as three books a year, Wilkin would work exclusively for the Little Golden Books series until 1961 and would occasionally do a book for the series until the mid-1980s.  In 1946 she made her Little Golden Book debut with The House in the Forest by Lucy Sprague Mitchel.  Among her 47 Little Golden Books are My Little Golden Book About God, Wonders of Nature, Little Mommy, The New Baby, Busy Timmy, We Help Mommy, and We Help Daddy.  Her illustrations for Little Golden Books also appeared on calendars, puzzles, Hallmark cards, china plates, record sleeves for Golden Records, magazines and ads.

Wilkin also was attuned to the changes in society.  In We Like Kindergarten (1965) she depicted a racially integrated class and children of color were included in the reprint of My Little Golden Book About God.  The 1975 reprint of The New Baby (1948) contained a more realistic portrayal of pregnancy and with an increase awareness of SIDS the cover no longer had the baby sleeping on her tummy.

Baby Dear
Though illustrating 110 books was quite an accomplishment Wilkin’s dream was to design a doll that was like a real baby.  After twenty years of experimenting and designing, Baby Dear debuted in October 1960.  Produced by Vogue Dolls, Baby Dear had a rag body with moveable arms and legs and came in two sizes (12 inches or 18 inches).  Two years later Baby Dear the book was published with illustrations by Wilkin. 

So, what’s your favorite Golden Book?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Family Memories of War

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

The Historical Society is focusing on the 1940s and World War II in part because of an upcoming event at Club 86 commemorating the music, fashion, resilience, and community of Geneva during those difficult years.  I have researched rationing, radio shows and Christmases during the 1940s and in the process it’s stirred up memories of a conversation I had with my cousin, Andy, at the last family reunion we both attended.

Cousin Andy was born in Belgium during the 1930s and lives with his extended family in Canada today.  He is now in his 80s with a great memory and the ability to ride 50 miles on his racing bike.  He is a very vital person and I would not call him “old” (even if I had a ½ mile head start)!

The last time I had an opportunity for an in-depth conversation with him I asked about a family legend that has endured for years.  The story is that parts of our family were in the Resistance during World War II.  It turns out there is a grain of truth in the story, but it wasn’t quite what we thought.  Before I fill you in on the truth, as we know it, I need to give you a bit of background.

My father’s family emigrated from Belgium to the U.S.A. at the end of World War I.  My grandfather, grandmother, my father, his sister and my grandfather’s brother, Joseph arrived in Michigan after Grandfather decided he was tired of their neighboring country, Germany, trampling over them in the War.  They lived in America for 10 years when my grandfather decided to return to Belgium for reasons I do not entirely understand.  All five family members sailed back to Belgium and the village of Tessenderloo.  By this time my aunt and father were teenagers and did not like living in what no longer felt like their homeland so my grandparents and my aunt and father returned to the U.S. about 8 months after they left.  However, my grandfather’s brother, Joseph, stayed in Belgium to marry and raise a family and endure World War II.

There was a story that I heard repeated often about members of our immediate family being in the “Underground” or Resistance during World War II so I decided to ask Cousin Andy what he remembered about this “legend”.  He responded with an interesting story that I will attempt to reproduce for you.  (Hint, always carry a recorder of some type when you question relatives about family history.) 

The tale unfolds like this…Cousin Andy and his brother, Walter, who were about 10 and 6 years old at the time, were out walking in the countryside not far from their home when they encountered a Canadian soldier whose plane was shot down by the Germans. Being children and not really attuned to the consequences they invited him to come back to their house.  Not all of their neighbors were sympathetic to the allies (or were too afraid of the Nazis) and someone reported them.  There shortly followed a knock on the door and Nazi soldiers demanded everyone go with them to headquarters.  The soldier did some fast talking and managed to convince Germans that he had forced his way into the house and demanded food and assistance.  They took him away and left the rest of the family alone.  From that point on the Nazis watched the family very closely so that no one in my immediate family could participate in the Resistance safely, though Andy said other more distantly related family members were in the Underground and relatives in America supported the movement monetarily.  So our family history was still exciting, but quite a bit different from what we believed.

Of course this led to other stories, some frightening and some a bit humorous which are all part of our family story.  He told how my father, who was in the Army and in Paris, borrowed a jeep and rode to the village in Belgium where the family lived and brought many supplies for them.  Andy talked about riding around the countryside on bicycles with cobbled together excuses for seats and tires to visit other relatives, how their house had a huge hole in the roof and how grateful they were that my dad showed up with clothes, money, and tools they desperately needed. My cousin talked about a munitions factory that blew up killing many people in the town that were forced to work there by the Nazis.

Andy continues to share stories with me every time we talk on the phone.  These vignettes are always interesting and fill in many blanks with information to which I would not ordinarily have access. Many emotions have been stirred by these stories, the most prominent being respect for the citizens who survive a war being fought on their soil. How hard it must be to know you are being watched, not know where your next meal will come from, lose friends and family in the fighting, and watch your children experience real fear.  As we look at the 1940s and the War years I am grateful that so far I have not had to experience these traumas and very glad I have someone who relates this information to me, so that my family’s sacrifices will not be forgotten.