The world into which I was born no longer exists, except in my mind and in the minds of the rapidly shrinking numbers of my contemporaries.
I try not to think about my early years, because when I do I’m reminded of all those who are no longer here ……. loved ones, friends, political leaders, entertainers, athletes …….. just about all gone. I try very hard to live in the present. I don’t even think much about the future. But I can not escape the past – its all there between my ears, and there always seems to be something that reminds me.
I have some vivid memories of my very early childhood during World War II:
— I remember frequent air raid drills which terrified me – both the loud sirens and my belief that bombs would be falling on my house. We had dark green shades on all our windows which had to be pulled down to prevent any light from escaping. Air raid wardens patrolled neighborhoods to ensure compliance.
— I remember the absolute terror that seized me whenever I heard an airplane. My child’s mind fully expected to be strafed by bullets or to be blown up. I had no understanding of the distances between my home and Europe or Asia which made that a virtual impossibility.
— I remember a Western Union man coming to our door. I recall my mother in hysterics, unable to open the telegram she held in her hand – a telegram advising that my oldest brother was missing in action in Germany. It was a horrible four or five months in our house before we learned that he was alive, a prisoner of war.
— I remember one winter walking with one of my brothers a few blocks from our house and coming upon a group of German prisoners of war shoveling snow.
— I remember bringing a dime to school each week when I was in kindergarten and 1st grade to purchase a stamp to paste in a book which, when filled, would be exchanged for a War Bond.
Other things not related to the war:
— I remember horse drawn garbage wagons and the accompanying swarming flies and sickening stench.
— I remember huge trucks dumping coal down a chute into our basement coal bin. I loved to watch my father toss shovelfuls of coal into the furnace, and shake out and remove the ashes from the furnace.
— I remember doctors making house calls, carrying their black doctor bags. They all had auto license plates with a MD, so they wouldn’t be ticketed for parking violations.
— I remember my mother putting a square card in the front window which told the iceman how many pounds of ice were needed for our ice box. The card had four numbers on it, one at each side, the number on top indicating the amount needed. I was fascinated by the iceman carrying those huge blocks of ice with large tongs, and separating them with his ice pick. I would always beg for, and receive, a large ice chip to suck on.
— I remember going to the movies with my brother on Saturday afternoons. For just 12 cents each we got to see a cartoon, a newsreel, a new chapter of a serial, plus two full length movies. Occasionally the theater would have a special where they showed 20 cartoons. I can’t believe that I not only would watch all twenty, but that I also loved them!
— I remember learning cursive with dip pens. I had a quantity of pen points (or nibs) and an ink well in my desk. My fingers were always stained with black ink.
— I remember in winter time the milkman left milk on the front porch that was frozen. The milk would expand and pop the lids of the glass bottles, leaving a cylindrical column of frozen cream exposed. During wartime my mother would remove the cream from some of the bottles and make butter.