Second World War: Working for the War Effort

Newspaper manager builds ships for the war effort during the Second World War.

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How does one put into words the cataclysmic event that burst upon our lives as unsuspecting young parents? 

Ed Baker, my dear husband of many years, and I lived in Cincinnati. Our first baby, a son named Michael, was only a few weeks old when Pearl Harbor was attacked on the "Day of Infamy," December 7, 1941. When the news came, Ed and I were on our first outing since the birth, while my mother cared for our infant son.

We had been to a movie - the title long since forgotten – and were in the car on our way home. We were listening to lively, cheerful music on the car radio. Suddenly there was an interruption. The United States had declared war and entered the conflagration that came to be known as the Second World War!

We hardly knew what that meant at the time and carried on our lives as usual. Of course, my husband was registered with the draft board, but he had not been called. Ed was a newspaper circulation manager and had been offered a new job as circulation representative for Marshall Field's new paper, The Chicago Sun. He traveled throughout Ohio and surrounding states, including West Virginia. It was lonely at home without Ed, but it was a lucrative job. We were able to save $1,100, which served as the down payment when we bought our first home.

At Christmastime in 1942, while I was dressed in my new blue velvet dress and eating a piece of expensive fruit cake, I got a phone call from Ed. He told me that his newspaper job had folded, a victim of war-related cutbacks. Somehow that fruit cake lost its luscious taste, and my blue velvet dress lost its luster!

Ed decided to help the war effort. He had no experience except in the newspaper business. He answered a classified ad for a factory job that stated, "Will train green labor." Ed applied, and came home jubilant from the interview. "1 got a job on the night shift, and they'll pay me 55 cents an hour!"

Thus Ed entered the blue-collar world. He outfitted himself with work clothes and boots. We acquired a tin lunch box with a Thermos bottle, and I learned to pack a working man's lunch. All during the wat years, Ed worked 12 hours a night, six nights a week, at 55 cents an hour.

Now for a smile. When Ed reported for work the first time, he learned that his employer was not the company that had advertised, but the factory next door. He had been so excited at getting a job that he signed up without paying attention to the employer's name. The company that hired Ed manufactured valves, many of which were huge ones used in ships. Ed was given a treasured memento, a red-and-blue lapel pin with a silver star, issued by the Wartime Commission of the United States. It was engraved "Award of Merit," and "Ships for Victory," on a silver eagle, wings outspread.

During the war years, I gained a new, and deeper respect for my husband. He, who was used to setting his own hours and had never so much as driven a nail or done manual labor, exhibited qualities I never dreamed he had. His loyalty, humility and stick-to-it-ness were above reproach. I'm proud of his contribution to the war effort. He did not serve overseas, but he certainly helped win the war.

Marcia Baker Pogue
Cincinnati, Ohio

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.