I remember Pearl Harbor… and so much more!

Dec 6, 2016 | 1 comment

My mom in a P-38 - on a PR Tour, 1944

My mom in a P-38 – on a PR Tour, 1944

The iconic words of my childhood were “Remember Pearl Harbor.”  Not “I love you.”  Not “Be a good girl.”  Not even “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”  Remember Pearl Harbor meant all of those things and a whole lot more besides.  I don’t think there is an equivalent today.  And thank God for that.

I was five-going-on-six on Sunday, December 7, 1941 and we were living in Alameda, California when the Japanese bombed the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. I don’t remember when or how we heard about it or if I went to school the next day or if my dad went to work.  I do remember listening to President Roosevelt’s ‘day of infamy speech’ and feeling a little bit scared – mostly because my dad paced the floor.  A lot.

"Liquid Stockings"

“Liquid Stockings”

Later I remember that we couldn’t go to the beach which was just a few blocks away.  It was blocked with big rolls of barbed wire and there were soldiers on guard.  We stood in line with our ration books to get bread and sugar and meat and lots of other things and I had to wear brown oxfords because they would last longer.  Two pairs of shoes a year for kids.  My mom went to work as a pipe fitter’s helper at General Engineering Shipyards and in 1944 she was voted Queen of the Shipyards and got to go as a Goodwill Emissary to Lockheed in Los Angeles.

I remember that my play room was converted to a bedroom that we rented out to one of the ‘girls’ who worked with my mother at the shipyard.  Our sunroom was rented out to another girl.  And all the windows had blackout curtains that we had to pull down at night so our lights wouldn’t show the enemy where we were.

Victory Jobs Poster

Victory Jobs Poster

Our renters were nice to me.  They made me necklaces out of colored macaroni and they let me watch while they painted each other’s legs with fake stocking seams.  There weren’t any silk stockings anymore.  And there weren’t any tires for cars, either.  Most people walked or took the bus.  We had a Victory Garden and I took my quarter to school every Monday to put it toward my War Bond.

My friends and I collected the tinfoil from discarded cigarette packs and gum wrappers and rolled it into big balls that we turned in for ‘the war effort.’  We painted ‘Kilroy Was Here’ on the fence by the empty lot across the street and we sang “Over there, Over there, Send the word, Send the word, Over there…” at the top of our lungs.  And we worried about our Japanese friends from San Francisco who were ‘relocated’ to Tule Lake.

I’ll never forget.  I’ll always remember Pearl Harbor.  And all that came afterwards.

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Thank you for such a great stateside look at 75 years ago today. I am reposting it on my page because a lot of my friends are interested due to my dad having been there.


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