Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Kids' War

We kids enthusiastically played a part in the war effort. We learned to weave tubes of yarn using an empty thread spool with four nails pounded in the top. I don’t know what use was made of these tubes. Bill knitted squares to make afghans for the war refugees, so perhaps there was a way to make afghans out of the tubes.

We had scrap metal and newspaper drives. We saved tin foil. I’ve wondered if any of that was ever used. We collected milkweed pods to use in life preservers in place of scarce kapok. The pods were hung in mesh onion bags on the bars holding up the school swings. I have wondered if indeed the pod floss was used instead of kapok. Just now I googled and sure enough, 25 million pounds of pods were collected in 1944 and 1945 to use in the preservers because the Japanese had overrun the islands where kapok was grown. Now milkweed floss is used as a substitute for goose down.

One of my household chores during the war was coloring the margarine. It was white, but there was a little button of yellow dye, which I kneaded evenly throughout the margarine.

We chanted derogatory rhymes about the enemy in the school yard.

One of the young men in the village was a prisoner of war. When he came home, we had a parade to honor him. The parade consisted of most of the people in the village gathering at the train station, walking up School Street to Main Street, and thence to the church where a program was held. The kids decorated their bikes and their doll carriages. I used the incident in a novel, and now I can’t distinguish my memory of what actually happened from what I imagined. My father had been a Boy Scout leader, and the released prisoner had been in his troop before the war. He was called “Cap’n” even then, I can’t remember why. My father remembered how dogged Cap’n had been in getting his badges, how he would come sit on our doorstep at daybreak until my father came out to go to work, or come sit there waiting for him to get home, in order to get help with the badge requirements. When he came back from the war, he came to visit my father to express his appreciation. I can’t remember anything about the visit. I wish now that I had talked later to my father about it. Had his Boy Scout training help him to survive?

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