It was Dec. 7, 1941, early on a Sunday morning. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It was the beginning of World War II.
I was about 8 years old. We, my parents, my two brothers and I, lived in the South Park area of Dayton., Today that area is called the UD Ghetto. Up until then life had been pretty predictable and safe.
For a special treat after Sunday dinner that day, my parents had taken my younger brother and me to see a movie. Part of the special treat was stopping at the Gallagher Drug Store to buy a dime’s worth of candy for each of us to enjoy during the walk home after the show.
I don’t remember what movie we saw, but I remember we didn’t stop to get our candy. When we stepped out of the darkened theater into the sunlight of that December day, we were greeted by newspaper boys shouting, “Extra, extra, Japs attack Pearl Harbor! Read all about it.”
Looking at my little brother, I shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea what or where Pearl Harbor was. Then I looked at my parents who were looking at each other. There was unmistakable fear in their eyes.
Suddenly I was scared out of my wits. Nor because some harbor was bombed, but because my parents, both my mom and my dad, were scared.
They had the answers to every question in the world. They feared nothing prior to this, so neither did I. Looking back I know there were things to fear prior to Pearl Harbor, but I was never aware of them.
Things changed for kids in our neighborhood after that day. I remember posters that said, “Loose lips sink ships.” Our neighborhood gang, and gang was a good thing then, got together and watched carefully for whoever wanted our sink our ships. We drank Ovaltine so we could collect box tops to send in for free decoder rings, so we could send secret messages to each other whenever we saw a spy. I don’t think we ever encountered a real spy, so we practiced on innocent bystanaders.
Some of our dads became Air Raid Wardens. Their job was to patrol our area during planned blackouts. Blackouts were deemed necessary in case airplanes came to bomb our homes during the nighttime hours. Our windows were covered with black material so no light could be seen from outside. Sometimes we sat in the dark and waited for the air raid to be over.
My dad worked in a factory that made propellers for airplanes. Long after the war ended I found out that as a supervisor he was required to carry a gun to work. One night he had to use it when the FBI came to arrest a suspected spy.
In the middle of the war we moved back to Greenville. My older brother joined the Air Cadets. He was trained in Texas to be a bombardier. My mother was sure the Lord answered her prayers when the war ended and the Air Cadets were discharged. He thought so too because his service allowed him to go to college.
I remember the day the “war to end all wars” ended. It was in August, a typically hot day, broken in the evening by thunderstorms with heavy rain. A neighbor took a car load of kids to the back door at the Greenville Advocate office on Broadway so he could get one of the first papers, hot off the press, an extra that proclaimed the war was over.
The Greenville Fire Department sent most of their trucks with screaming sirens throughout the town with as many kids as they could fit on them in celebration. My little brother and I had ringside seats on the fire truck because our Uncle Ernest Gauvey was the Fire Chief. We got soaking wet, but it didn’t matter, because we knew our world was safe again.
Safe again, yes, but different. Now we knew our parents could be scared, and we could be scared, too.
I remember Pearl Harbor. And when I do, I wonder how today’s kids feel, if they remember 9/11? There are so many things there now for them and their parents to fear.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Nov. 30, 2005.
Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author