The War Years

After we moved to the country, we got acquainted with the neighbor kids and we began to have a social life outside of school. George was in the eighth grade when we moved there. he failed his tests and had to take the eighth grade again. Changing schools so often hadn't been easy for him. In the first place he didn’t like any school and being confined so long. He wasn’t lazy, but he liked working hard at what he enjoyed most. He went to Leona & Woodrow Crawford in the early 1940s.Oakland Grade School and at least enjoyed "recess". We made several friends in that neighborhood. The Olson girls rode the school bus, which the kids named "Black Mariah" and was driven by Gerald Barker who drove out from his parent’s home in Ottawa to teach in the High School at Appanoose. (Appanoose wasn’t a town, just a community). The Milton Boys and Hoopes kids who went to Oakland Grade School went on to the Ottawa High Schools. The Fritts kids always quit when they graduated from grade school (although the two younger ones may have gone to High School). George made real good friends with the Milton kids and we both "ran around with the Fritts’. I went with Richard Fritts for awhile. We all went to dances together at Williamsburg. Several persons from the Oakland school would get together and give a play. Usually it was long enough for a full evening’s entertainment. We weren't great actors and actresses but it was fun. We would give it at our own district’s community meeting (We had one meeting each month) and then we’d go to five or six other communities and give our plays. Those communities would give their play at our Oakland district. It woke up lots of time, but it provided entertainment at very little cost for a lot of people. It also kept the people of each community in touch with each other. In the days before TV, in days where money was very limited, "homespun" entertainment was a necessity. We had lots of fun. I can remember Dutch Dunlap, Mrs. Bachelor and some of her children, Bessie Dennis and her daughter, Iris. I know there were many more over the years, but I can't think of their names. We had a family of Harris’ who lived on the corner. They had four children: Arlene, Albert, Allen, and Robert. Mrs. Harris was the Oakland 4-H leader. I only belonged two years, but got to know the family better because of it. Mama joined the Oakland Hostess Helpers Club and got to know the women of the neighborhood. Times were hard, the depression was not really over and wouldn’t be until the war started in December of 1941. My dad farmed the small farm he rented, but he also worked as a mechanic at Bob White motors in Ottawa for quite a while. The prices were low, the summers hot and dry so farming produced very little income. Later he got a job on the snow plow and road grader. It was just a paart-time job. I graduated from high school in 1938. I would like to have gone to college, but the folks had no money to help me, so I worked for different people doing house work and farm chores. In the early spring I met Woodrow. First I saw him on the streets of Ottawa where I stopped to talk to some friends and a bit later I met him at a dance. I was there with a mutual friend, Harrison Secrest. I went to Western Kansas shortly after that to spend a couple months with my sister Fern, Joe and Richard. Woodrow wrote me a letter and I answered. I still have some of those letters. As soon as I came home we began dating. Our first date was on June 24, 1940. We were married on December 28, 1940. In the summer, because he was a member of the National Guard, he went to Minnesota on maneuvers (summer encampment). He complained mostly about the mosquitoes, but he sent me a letter written on birchbark. I got a job doing housework in Ottawa. I'd worked in a restaurant when I was at my sister’s at Belpre, Kansas. We were married at the First Methodist Church parsonage in Lawrence. Cleda and Gardner Hayden, Woodrow’s sister and her husband "stood up" with us. We spent the night in a Lawrence Hotel. Woodrow’s mother had a dinner for us the next day.

On December 23, 1940 Woodrow’s National Guard unit was activated into the army. (This was a nationwide action of activating all National Guard units.). it was one more step the United States was making that was preparing for war. I guess I tried to shut my eyes and ears to the reality that war was coming even when Woodrow was one who was leaving with the National Guard. A system of drafting had been set up to take all men over 18 in the army except for certain exemptions (older men, health defects, men with families with certain jobs like agriculture, jobs of technology, etc.) we were married December 28th then on January 3, 1941, Woodrow left for Camp Robinson at Little Rock, Arkansas. In February, I went down to Little Rock and lived until the July 4th weekend. Woodrow was leaving for maneuvers in Louisiana. In October he got a temporary release from duty because he was over 28, but on December 7th, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearly Harbor in Hawaii and the U.S. declared war on both Japan and Germany. On January 24, 1942 Woodrow left for California. The United States was at war on many fronts. Albert was small and I stayed in an apartment in Ottawa with him until that August when Woodrow came back in August on furlough, I went to California with him. He was stationed at Fort Ord by that time and I lived in Salinas in a small apartment. It was really nice there. There was never a day when Albert and I couldn’t go to the park across the street. There was a playground with swings, slides, merry-go-round and teeter-totters. There was a small dance pavilion. A couple afternoons after school, a lady supervised youth (7-12 grades). They danced to a phonograph, played games like croquet, etc. there was also always someone who supervised the playground. Albert was a year old the day we went from Los Angeles to Salinas on the train (when we were arriving in Salinas). That was on August 24, 1942, Albert’s 1st birthday. Albert learned to swing on the swings, slide down the slides and before we left in April, he had learned to enjoy the merry go round. And teeter totter. He had a stroller, so we put miles on it walking the streets of Salinas.

Woodrow’s brother, Jay, was at Ft. Ord a short time after I got to California, but it wasn’t long until the African Invasion and Jay was there and was on up through Italy and the rest of Europe for the War’s duration. Elvis and Maxine Petty also came up to see us one weekend and the Harris Kids (who had lived just north of us on the farm in Oakland School district when I was growing up) came to see me one day. They lived at San Jose. In April, Woodrow knew he would be leaving Ft. Ord, so when he got his furlough we went back to Ottawa and I stayed in an apartment there again. He went to the Mojave Desert for the summer. That fall his father died. By that time he was stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood. After the funeral, Albert and I went by bus to Ft. Leanard Wood through K.C. and Jefferson City, Mo. We stayed in a cabin near the entrance to the camp until Woodrow left to go to the east cost and then overseas. He left Ft. Leonard Wood on New Year’s day, 1944.

Mike, Woodrow's brother, came down and helped me move back to Ottawa. I stayed with my folks for a while, then an apartment a short while. Then I bought a house at 225 Willow in Ottawa. We, Albert and I, lived there until Woodrow returned from the War in June (24th ?), 1945. In the meantime, Gladys Fritts (who later married a McIntire) lived in the front bedroom of my house (with house privileges). We ate most meals together. Mary Ellen was born on September 10, 1944. By then Woodrow had been in Europe in the war zone three months, after being in England from February until June. (Several days after D-Day, he had crossed the channel). But his doing that is his story.

Woodrow and I wrote to each other nearly every day during that time between January 1, 1944 and June 24, 1945. Sometimes we would not get the letters—none for several days—and then we would get several in one day. We had the privilege of sending regular letters and I sent him lots of pictures, but we also had a privilege or alternative of V-letters (I think they were called that), a photo copied letter. We had also been aware of shortages for a long time. One thing was film for a camera. Mine was a plain box camera, but film was hard to get. Mrs. Kramer from Kramer’s drug store always saved me two rolls a month. I think each roll took eight pictures.

We had a rationing book that limited some things like gas, sugar, flour, and meat. Soap for washing dishes and clothes were scarce. Mr. Sowers, the groceryman always saved me one box of soap a seek and one bar of soap. He delivered them each week. Also, he saw that I got my allowance of sugar, flower, and meat. My parents and Gladys’ parents were farmers, so (as farmers were allowed to butcher their own animals) we had a gift of enough meat to always have plenty. I did make some of my own soap from left over grease from cooking, though. This shortage lasted for nearly a year after the war was over, maybe more. We had a long wait for a refrigerator. And new automobiles were a long time catching up with the demand. I never smoked, but people stood in long lines for a pack of cigarettes. They weren’t rationed, but just weren't available. I guess the ones in military service were supplied and nearly always had as many as they wanted.


  1. Woodrow and Leona Crawford in the early 1940s.
  2. Albert and Mary Ellen Crawford taken about 1944 at 225 Willow in Ottawa, Kansas.