Second World War: Right Down to Enlist

Illinois native recalls her veteran father going to enlist despite his injuries and instead working at a defense plant.

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The Selective Service was busy calling up draftees, and many more were enlisting. Of course my dad went right down to enlist. Unfortunately, he was 55 years old and had been gassed and shell-shocked in World War I. Never one to stand aside, he began to apply for jobs at defense plants and was hired on right away. 

Other changes occurred on the home front. We were urged to conserve everything for the war effort. We saved grease. Every kid on the block had a tin-foil ball. Mine eventually got huge, because I begged every piece of tin foil from everyone I knew.

About this time our car was put up on blocks out in the yard, and my dad began riding with a neighbor to work. Tires were not for sale at any price. Enterprising individuals took advantage of the situation, and the black market was born. For enough money you could get anything you wanted. But, daddy said we didn't need anything that bad, so we managed on our ration books and little red and blue points.

We raised chickens, rabbits, ducks, geese and sometimes a hog. Daddy knew a beekeeper, and we traded chickens, eggs or what-ever he needed for some honey to help stretch our sugar. As far as I know, the bees were exempt from rationing.

Because we couldn't use our car and Daddy wasn't home much, the radio became my focus. I couldn't get enough of Jack

Armstrong, "Terry and the Pirates" and all the rest of the programs. Each had a War theme and fought spies and fascists tooth-and-nail. "Captain Midnight" became my favorite program. One bright spot emerged each week as we tuned into" Amos & Andy" and tried to forget the horror that was going on all over the world. Even the plot lines on the soap operas were about the War. "One Man's Family" had at least two of the sons in the service and mentioned some of the things we were all doing to help win the War.

It is so strange to think back about how patriotic we all were and how we didn't mind at all going without, because it was for the war effort.

And the War brought many surprises. One day a knock was heard at our door. I went to see who it was. There, standing with dufflebag in hand, was a young man. I called Momma, because I didn't know who it was. The young man said he was my cousin.

Momma's nephew whom she had not seen since he was a baby. He was stationed at an Army camp in our town. After that he was a frequent visitor at our house, often bringing several buddies along for a home-cooked meal. It was a thrilling time for me, and I loved hearing all those young men talking and laughing. Sad to remember, many of those fine young men didn't return home.

Those war years were bad, and we were all glad when peace came at last.

Winnie Schuetz
Tilden, Illinois

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.