Saturday, May 3, 2014

Military Memories: The Community

I'm home from the hospital and on the mend -- see "Sad Sushi" post -- and although the rehab exercises and all the rest wear me out, somehow the highlight of my day is the sweet escape that comes when I take a break and think about genealogy. How many of us love it and in times of trouble find that it can be very soothing to whatever ails us?

So the thought now is to pick up the GeneaBloggers writing prompt for this merry month of May with short posts on Military Memories and thought up by Jennifer Holik. There's a blogging theme for every day and that's going to work for me... and maybe you too, if you blog?

Meanwhile the work continues on the Farrell DNA project and I'll probably be posting on that as well. Cousin Rich and I are busy comparing DNA matches that are the result of Mom's recent AncestryDNA test. I have made some really nice contact with matches for the Farrells as well as for Mom's wonderful Whetstones, a House descendant, and now a Kobel cousin with a branch that spells it Coble. Who knew?

For this short post on Military Memories the topic is The Community. My family all lived in the little Western Maryland mountain town of Frostburg in Allegany County. When WWII broke out, the boys enlisted and went off to war. I did a post about the Kelly boys, Dad's brothers, going off and you can read it here. Dad wasn't eligible due to a childhood injury and he stayed at the home front.

There was rationing and everyone of my age has heard stories about the scarcity of tires, cars, and sugar as well as the use of Ration Books and coupons. I guess that I'm lucky to have all of Mom's stories about the war years in Frostburg and the munitions plant where everyone, including Dad, worked. The local movie theatre had bond sales before the main feature. No new pots and pans nor new sheets for the newlyweds. There was a housing shortage too and rentals were all but impossible to find. One of my all time favorite movies about this era is "Since You Went Away" made in 1944 and every time I see it I think that it could have taken place in Frostburg, with some minor adjustments.

Mom and some of her friends worked during the war. Before the war she found it difficult to get a job and through the help of a friend worked in the Five & Dime. It didn't last long, and my impression is that she wasn't too serious about it either. But when the war started it was much easier for women to find work, good work. And they found fellowship there too, sharing the good and bad.

I think Mom found the work at the textile mill where fabric for parachutes was manufactured a bit more challenging than the work at the Five & Dime. It contributed to the war effort. I might not have this absolutely right (and Mom will let me know) but the guys who were her bosses thought she was just another dumb blond and often made sport of her work efforts. On her own she organized a way to record measurements (or something to do with numbers) and it blew them away. "YOU did this?!" they asked her in disbelief. Sure she did. She'd just never been challenged before. I guess that probably happened to a lot of women who worked at interesting jobs during the war and were good at it and enjoyed it too. I think that it must have given Mom a sense of "can do" that stuck with her and was put to good use when she took up genealogy in the 1970s.

Everyone in town had a Victory Garden. Everyone always had a back yard garden for vegetables, fruits, and wine grapes anyway so to continue it into wartime just made easy sense. Putting up or canning vegetables and meat they hunted was very common. Jams and jellies too. But doing without sugar was a real hardship. And watch out if you ask Mom what she thinks about margarine. Can't stand it to this day!

Little Frostburg had just been through the Great Depression and before that, reversals at the many coal mines in the area. The townsfolk were naturals at economizing and doing without and then finding clever ways to substitute.

A postcard sent to Dad from one of his brothers.
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