Second World War: House-Keeping

House-keeping was difficult when good housing was hard to find during the Second World War.

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My husband and I were married when he returned on furlough in March 1943. I finished my fourth year of teaching and left by train for Savannah, Georgia, in May. 

It was very difficult to find an apartment, and his pay as a private in the Air Force wasn't much. I had saved some money, but our first apartment was one small, filthy room with a bed and dresser uptown on Lincoln Street. We bought a cabinet, a three-burner kerosene stove, a small table and two chairs and started house-keeping.

We had a wooden tub and a washboard, and I could go out the window onto the roof of the two-story building to hang my clothes. Our room was on the third floor. We soon discovered bed bugs. Soldiers and sailors came and went, and we knew about the woman across the hall.

Most of the time the halls were dark at night, and sometimes there were no bulbs in the bathroom, which was quite a distance down the hall. I would not open our door until I heard my husband's voice, and I would not go to the bathroom after dark alone. My husband knew the place would be raided, and we desperately tried to find another apartment.

We watched the papers. Finally, when he had a day off, we started down the streets; he on one side, I on the other. We knocked on doors and asked, "Do you know where we can find an apartment?" After we had walked all day, we asked a lady who was sitting on the porch. She answered, "Why yes, I think you can get one right here." It was a private home with three apartments, and praise God, we had asked on the right day - a couple was moving out.

The apartment was probably 12-by-15 feet, with a bedroom at one end and a kitchen at the other, all furnished. It even had a lavatory in the kitchen, and the bath was just down the hall. It was like heaven after living in that dump for two months. We feared asking how much, because we knew it would be beyond our reach, but we were amazed at the price - $4 a week. I asked, "Are there bed bugs here?" She answered, "No, and don't you bring any!"

We sold our little dab of furniture and packed our kitchen supplies and clothes after carefully searching for bed bugs. We lived in that one room about three years.

Marvin was an M.P. and had some exciting experiences. One night as he guarded the gate, a captain and a major crawled under the fence as they were returning to base. One said to the other, "Well, we made it!" Marvin approached and exclaimed, "Not quite!" And of course, he reported them.

Mrs. Marvin L. Tate
Abilene, Kansas

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.