The Life and Times, Page 10
As Told to Dan Reddell
I went to visit Lea Etta and Gib, who had moved to a little town in the San Joaquin Valley named Kettleman city. We ended up moving in with them, and I got a job at Lemoore Air Base.
Gene started kindergarten there, and Dale had his third birthday. We soon rented our own little one- bedroom furnished apartment, but after about three or four months, the work ran out and we moved back to Sacramento.
Kettleman was a miserable place to live, but we became lifelong friends with Pete and Dorothy Schmit. And then, World War II started.
The day the War started, I was looking at a lot I wanted to buy, trying to decide how to put a house on it. Then I left, driving home in my new 1941 dark blue DeSoto. It was the first car we had that had an automatic transmission. It had cost about $2,000.
I turned the radio on and it said that Pearl Harbor had been bombed and that all carpenters should report to McClellan Field. I didn't even go home. I drove right straight over to McClellan Field and signed up.
I didn't get back home for a long time, and when I did, we had company, our neighbors, Charley and Mamie Newman. They didn't know about Pearl Harbor being bombed, and when I told them, they were stunned.
I had to go back over to McClellan Field, and while I was gone, the radio said to turn out all your lights. Dorothy was scared to death, thinking the Japanese were going to come on in and attack, like they did at Pearl Harbor. She was sitting there in the dark when I got home, petrified with fear.
The whole city was blacked out, and she figured McClellan Field was the target.
The war brought big changes; we had to have rationing of food, sugar, and coupons to buy gas. It was hard to get sugar, so we learned how to cook with honey. Bacon was scarce. People would line up to buy anything they thought there was a shortage of.
We began seeing pictures of the
bodies of Jews stacked up in wagons where the Germans had been killing them. We were real fortunate by not having any war tragedies in our families or close friends.
I was sent to work at the Fair Grounds and stayed there three years doing several different jobs. We had a crew that repaired the buildings where supplies were shipped overseas. I was a foreman for quite a while, overseeing our main job of making crates out of rainproof plywood to ship plane engines overseas.
The job wasn't so bad since we had modern power tools to do the work. It wasn't like the houses Pop and I built with hammers and handsaws.
Most of the crates were 4' x 4', nailed together by treated, rustproof nails, and I ended up making $1.25 an hour, top scale, except outside, where the union scale was $1.60. One other job I had was that if anyone got fired, they came to me and if I didn't think it was a just firing, I put them back to work.
The last year of the war I returned back to McClellan field, doing the same work of building crates. Somebody had to work for the government, and I was glad to be there instead of dodging bullets.
I didn't drive the '41 De Soto much because I could only get six gallons of gas a month with ration coupons, so it stayed in the garage most of the war. I rode a bicycle most of the time to work, or carpooled with other workers.
Then President Roosevelt died. They played funeral music for three days over the radio. I hated to see him die before the war ended, but old Truman did a real good job, especially dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, ending that war.
We were astounded by the power of the atomic bomb, and scared.
But, God, we were proud to be Americans. I knew the war was going to be over because we had already whipped Germany, and the atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan, so Dorothy and I made...