Pearl Harbor, saving stamps and oleo
H. C. ‘Nick’ Nickerson b. 1935
In 1941 I was six years old, and although I remember Christmas that year, no one made me aware of the bombing of Pearl Harbor three weeks before. I’m sure they were trying to shelter me from the horror of the attack, but I’ve always regretted that my parents didn’t alert me to the significance of that day.
In the early 40s, anything that cost a dollar was an expensive item. I do remember a neighbor lady complaining to my mother that a trip to the grocery store cost almost twenty dollars. For that matter I do remember my mom sending me to the local neighborhood grocery with eleven cents to buy a loaf of bread.
During those days, I remember a horse drawn wagon coming through the neighborhood selling fresh vegetables. (I wonder now how that worked with food rationing going on.) Another entrepreneur would come by offering to sharpen knives and scissors. Paper drives were in vogue. I never quite knew what they did with old newspapers and magazines, but it seemed very important. We donated any metal utensils and old pots and pans. We saved bacon and other kitchen grease for the war effort and turned our collection into the local butcher. They told us it would be used in manufacturing ammunition.
Rationing took away our butter. We were able to get white oleo margarine where they attached a packet of yellow food coloring you had to add to make it look like butter. Some ‘oleo’ had a colored bubble inside and you kneaded it for several minutes to spread the color around. I understand it was the dairy industry who demanded no margarine could look like butter. Mom would let me stir up the mixture.
Gasoline rationing was in place. Our family car had a B sticker which allowed us to purchase a little more gas than the A sticker. I guess it was because of Dad’s job with Pan American. My Uncle Dick had an A sticker. I don’t remember what he did for a living. He had a 1934 Ford coupe with a rumble seat where I got to ride sometimes. He and Aunt Henrietta lived in downtown Miami. He was an Air Raid Warden and patrolled the streets around his apartment during black outs to ensure no unauthorized lights were showing. He wore a white helmet showing his badge of office. He was very proud of that.
Automobiles had the upper half of their headlights shaded. Along Miami Beach all windows had heavy shades installed and were drawn at night. This precluded any background lights from illuminating the tankers and cargo ships traveling just off shore in the Gulf Stream. This procedure surely helped stop the massive sinking by German submarines in the early months of the war.
Dad became a navigator with Pan American during the war years, delivering medium bombers to Russia via the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and the Near East. He flew out of Opa Locka Airport in North Miami. One evening, Mom put us in the car and drove over to the airport’s perimeter fence and parked to watch Dad take-off. Soon, an armed sentry came by and told us to move on. Parking there was not allowed for security.
Mom got a wartime job with the Government. I remember she took a bus every morning to Homestead Army Air Field. I don’t remember what her job was.
War Bonds were a big thing during the war. Kids were encouraged to buy Savings Stamps, some for 10 cents, some for 25 cents.
The kids had stamp books in which the stamps were pasted. When you had $18.75 you could purchase a War Bond that matured for $25 ten years later.
At age ten in 1945, we were told at school President Roosevelt died. Walking home after school that afternoon with some other children, we discussed the possibility that we might now lose the war with him gone. Childhood fears at their best!
At the war’s end, Dad left Pan Am, and Mom left her job in Homestead and became a bookkeeper at the Dade County Court House. I went on to Miami Jackson High School and my sister, Patsy finished up at Miami High. We moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1950, and I went on to graduate from Fort Lauderdale High School in 1953.