Monday, April 27, 2009


My career with the Council Bluffs Natural Gas Company was not over after my summer on the pipe laying crew. The next summer the gas company needed a meter reader and after talking to Norman, the Assistant Collections Manager, I signed on.

I read meters for the next fours years during the summer and on most Saturdays during my high school days. When I was home for the summer during college, I worked at night and read meters for ½ day during the day. No wonder my social skills were underdeveloped. I got really good at meter reading and made efficiency my middle name.

I was fast, really, really fast at scurrying through my route for the day. And I guarantee you that no one could do the job today in the time I managed to do it. If there were extensive records kept for accuracy and speed, my records today would surely have an asterisk along side of my name, just like they do in baseball. Why? In the early 50’s people lived differently. Let me expand.

Council Bluffs was a town of around 45,000 people then with two high schools of about 2200 students each. It was a railroad town, mail terminal and a commercial center for farmers to buy their weekly rations. There were not many poor people and not many rich people. The vast majority were middle working class families. Doctors still made house calls. Dentists were getting used to x-ray equipment, but without the warnings of too much radiation exposure. Street cars had been just recently phased out in favor of buses. Automatic washing machines were being purchased in abundance and the wringer washers were being scrapped, except for the motors that were saved in case one thought of a good reason to use one.

Television was new then and those who could afford a TV set had an eight inch round tube black and white set that stood 4 feet tall with rabbit ear antennae that picked up 3 stations from Omaha. If you owned a car, it had a stick shift manual transmission, bench seats, a radio, and a heater. White-wall tires were extra.

I would guess that 90 % of the gas meters in Council Bluffs were in the basement. So it was required to enter houses from the side or rear door to gain access to the basement. Some houses still had basement access through outside cellar doors. Most basements were unfinished then and people used them to store extra things that would eventually become junk after being unused for several years. They were seldom kept clean and cob webs were not uncommon by any means. Some basements still had dirt floors and many times they housed only the furnace, an abandoned coal bin, and a gas meter.
But getting back to the asterisk—in the 1950’s, the woman of the house stayed home and people didn’t lock their doors at night so they were still unlocked during the daytime providing someone was home. So when I came to a house, I would loudly pound on the door, open it a bit and yell, “Gas meter man”. Usually I would wait for someone to yell back, “Go ahead”. If I heard no answer, I would yell again, then, I would proceed to the basement to find the meter. I usually didn’t wait for the door to be answered and very, very seldom did this present a problem. It was accepted behavior.

So I was able to quickly get in and get out of the basements. I cut across lawns (also mostly acceptable) and jumped fences up to 4 feet high in order to maintain a bee line to the next door.

My tools were my meter book, a couple of pencils, and a heavy duty flash light. I also carried a bunch of post cards that I left stuck in the door when no one was home and the door was locked. These cards had duplications of the meter dials and a home owner could draw in where the dial was positioned between the numbers and mail it in.

When I first started reading meters, I would turn my Ever-Ready on when I entered the basement, walk to the front of the house to find the meter, read the dials, and then, write down the numbers into the meter book. When writing, I had to wedge the flashlight into my left arm pit as I held the book in my left hand and wrote with my right hand as I stood before the meter. Then secure my pencil and take the flashlight out of my arm pit with my right hand and hurriedly move to the door, using the flashlight as necessary to make my way.

But I was able to speed things up by reading the meter, remembering the four numbers, moving to the outside, then writing down the numbers where the light was good. It removed the flashlight arm pit maneuver and by eliminating this maneuver 250 times a day, I probably saved 10-15 minutes a day. I rarely forgot my numbers and I would say the numbers aloud as I read them and it helped me remember them for a short time. Once I wrote the numbers down, the numbers were erased from my memory.

Technically, I was given 8 hours of work, but once I read my 250 meters, my work was done for the day. I would usually buy some food and soda at a corner mom and pop grocery store for lunch and 15 minutes was usually sufficient before moving on. I think my average time to complete my daily route was about 6 ½ hours.

But in today’s world with locked doors and women no longer at home to answer the door and privacy fences that can’t be jumped, reading meters has to be much slower than it used to me. Hence the asterisk.

Here is a typical gas meter dial.
You read the dials from right to left. I would come to this meter and say 0321, and when I wrote it down, I would write from right to left so the number came out 1230 in the book. I had to write legibly so the person that ran the billing machine could quickly read the correct numbers.

Each page of the meter book had a place for comments, which indicated where the meter could be found if difficult to find or whether there was a dog that was a problem and sometimes there would be comment that the lady of the house was good looking. I never got bitten by a dog while reading meters. My canine experience as a paper carrier paid off.
I was never propositioned by a sex stared female and never caught anyone naked, although I surprised a couple ladies ironing in the cool basement trying to escape the summer heat with just their slip and underwear on.

One house in the poorer section of town had their meter in a two foot high crawl space and the space was partially filled with debris. I saw that the meter had not been read for a long time and only an estimated amount placed in the recording space of the meter book. There were many “E’s” there to indicate estimates. I was determined to get a reading, and besides, Norman would notice it and give me an “attaboy”. I had half my body under the house and I was inching back out with the numbers in my head, when I felt something hit my legs. When I got completely out, I saw that it was some garbage. Apparently, the people didn’t want their meter read and after I wrote down the numbers, I could see why. The many estimates before were way off. The owners were probably using their gas stove to heat the place during the winter. No doubt Norman would have to deal with this later.

Once, I was in the basement when I heard a loud crash, and by the time I raced upstairs an elderly woman was calling for help. In the front room I saw a smashed glass coffee table and a woman with a severe gash in her arm that was really bleeding. I ran to the kitchen and got a towel for her arm and called the emergency unit and stayed with her until the unit arrived. If I had not been there, the woman may have been in serious trouble.

One week a year, I took over the janitor’s job while he went on vacation. Naturally, I worked as fast as possible, but I still wanted the floors to look awesome when customers came in to pay their bills or sign up new service. I used an industrial sized floor buffer that ran when both levers below the handle were squeezed. So in my haste, I let go of the levers and the handle while the buffer was slowing to a stop and the brush stopped moving but the handle swung around and smashed into a gas range on display in the front of the building. A big piece of enamel chipped off the oven door revealing a big dark area in place of the pristine, glossy white surface. “Oh no, I thought. I am in trouble.”

I had no other choice but to tell Norman what had happened. But he just smiled and said not to worry and he would see that the door was replaced. Norman was a good man.

One of the things I remember about my job reading meters in Council Bluffs for the Gas Company is that I was in almost every house in the city. I would guess that the number is at least 18,000. It occurs to me that if a company wants to do a market survey about what people have in their basements, they should talk to a gas meter reader first.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digging Ditches for the Council Bluffs Natural Gas Company

Mother left her reporter job at the Council Bluffs Nonpareil newspaper to go to work at the Council Bluffs Natural Gas Company as secretary to the president of the company somewhere around 1950.

When I reached the age of 16 in the summer of 1951, I was legally eligible to work summer jobs that paid far more than work as a newspaper carrier or corn detasseler or raspberry picker or greenhouse worker. I was ready to move into work that men did. And thanks to my mother’s influence I secured a job with the gas company working on a crew that installed new gas mains in various parts of Council Bluffs.

Gus was my boss; a short, broad-shouldered muscular swarthy man who I think was of Greek heritage. Most of the time he had an easy manner about him and his instruction were given in a friendly manner. But he did not tolerate loafing and would say something gently sarcastic to remind someone that work was not about having fun. “Hope you’re not having trouble keeping your shovel clean” was all he needed to say to keep your mind on the task at hand.

I would typically rise about 6 AM, dress, eat, and pick up my lunch box and thermos bottle, catch the bus, and get a transfer for another bus to the South part of town. I would then walk about 3 blocks and be ready to go to work at 7:30. I would climb in back of a flat bed truck with 2-3 others. Someone would fill up the big water cooler and lift it up on the bed near the cab for safe traveling. On hot days we would stop close by and buy a big enough chuck of ice to last through the day. Gus would light up his cigar and climb into the driver’s seat and off we’d go to our destination.

Gus’s right hand man was Hans. Hans was a gentle giant of a man who spoke with a pronounced Swedish accent. Hans would always ride shot gun and once inside the cab he would place a chaw of Red Man tobacco inside his lip. I learned the best place to sit on the flat bed was next to the cab on the driver’s side. That way I was out of wind and away from potential sprays of tobacco juice occasionally emanating from the passenger side window.

We moved all around the city but sometimes our crew would spend 2 weeks at the same place installing a 6 inch gas main for 2 or 3 blocks down the side of an unpaved street. Les was our back hoe man He could really put his machine into its paces. Les was small in statue (about my size then). When one looked at Les there was no doubt that he was lower middle class working man. And he talked and thought like one. He smoked a lot was a drinking man and the lines on his face gave evidence to his habits.

This is the first job I had where men worked together as a team. Everything was always done calmly without anger or hysterics. I always carried out my jobs with eagerness and a desired to please because I wanted to build a reputation of being a hard worker and an easy person to get along with. I knew if what my boss thought of me would somehow get back to my mother causing a possible embarrassment to her if the message was negative. But, if the message was positive it would reinforce the image my mother would always try to project on to me.

When you are 16 you really don’t realize how much you are being influenced by things going on around you in so far as how many things ooze into your habits and attitudes. When in a leadership position as an adult, I always tried to act calmly even in the most stressful situations. I can’t image that I would ever pound my fist on the desk, turn red, and rant and rave as a means to motivate someone. And when I have run into people of this ilk, I always wonder how such leadership traits could possibly be effective in the long run. Usually my disrespect for them is so great that I secretly pity them. But I digress.

Laying a new 6’ inch cast iron main required lifting and moving pipe about 16 feet long into place along side the newly dug ditch. The ditch would be about 2 feet wide and 6 feet deep. When ready, two ropes would be looped around the pipe and two men would then straddle the pipe and sidle until the ditch bifurcated their bodies. Then the ropes were gradually lengthened until the pipe was in place. Each end of the pipe had a collar with six 3/8 inch holes evenly spaced around the circle. A tacky tar was smeared on the two faces to be joined, the holes were lined up and bolts were inserted and tightened. The pipe had to have a certain degree of levelness which was checked after each section was laid. Later, the pipe would be filled with pressurized air and each joint would be checked with a soapy solution to make sure the joints didn’t leak. In more modern times, the pipes are smaller, more flexible steel pipes that are welded together and checked for leaks before they are lowered into the ditch. These smaller pipes can also accept more gas pressure so more volume of gas can be pushed through.

Life working outside in the summer in the heart of the Midwest is not too difficult except in the dog days. A lot of time I would be digging a hole in the ground which requires a steady energy consuming effort. After a new main was laid, frequently there are a few houses along the street that didn’t have natural gas service. So I would dig a ditch from the new main to the house so a smaller pipe could be laid for service to them.

Half of Council Bluffs lies along the old Missouri river bottom and there are sections of the town where thick, dense clay lays a couple of feet below the surface. Digging up this material, which we called gumbo, requires a least 3 times the effort and takes 3 times as long. I took meticulous care of my two shovels, one a shade, and one a pike that was used for penetration. After each day, all the dirt was removed and the digging surfaces were polished and oiled to prevent rust and the edges were kept semi-sharp. Even so, when a shovel full of gumbo was brought up, it stuck to the shovel’s surface and had to be removed by whacking the shovel forcefully against a hard surface or pushed off with a hand, foot, or big stick.

Small tree roots were usually at the mercy of a heavy foot and sharp shovel edge. But some of the larger ones required several whacks before giving way. Buried rocks would announce their impenetrability with a clank of stone against metal. It was then time to search for soft soil near them so they could be dug up.

I tan easily and whenever possible when sweat was running down my face and arms, I took my shirt off. I learned that wearing underwear was not the desired thing. Dirt and/or sweat would travel downwards and filter themselves on my shorts and the elastic was uncomfortable. Not only was free swinging cooler; there were no more blackened white shorts to launder. There was no compromising when it came to foot ware however. Heavy work shoes were needed at all times.

My glory days as a ditch digger came when we had to make repairs on Broadway, the busiest street in town. When holes or ditches were dug on city streets, the holes had to be filled in and tamped down so that later, the dirt wouldn’t later compress and sag the pavement. We had an air compressor that traveled in back the flat bed and usually I got the job of tamping where I learned the value of keeping my feet out of the striking zone.

But when you work on a major street, you have to gouge out the multi-layers of pavement with a jackhammer before you can get to the dirt. To me the epitome of the strong all-American male back then was the image of a construction worker running a jackhammer. So here I am, 16 years old, shirt off, tanned skinny body running a jackhammer on Broadway trying to act like it wasn’t a big deal. I found a do-rag for my forehead making my costume complete. Clouds of cement dust covered my body as the jarring noisy jackhammer pounded my arms and shoulders. Streaks of sweat ran down my back and chest. My hair resembled a chalk eraser. Surely, I thought, I was becoming a man. What comes next?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hello, Natalie?

I had never been so frozen with anxiety before in my life. All I could do is stare ahead trying to get the courage to move forward. I was rehearsing over and over what to do, but it didn’t seem to help.

I was 13 and I was trying to call the girl I wanted to like me. She hopefully would be the first, if I could muster the courage. I so lacked confidence that things would go smoothly. What would I do if she didn’t answer? What would I do if she did answer? How would I explain why I called? What if she didn’t want to talk to me? What would I call about?

I was so confused. Finally, in a moment rash boldness, I picked up the phone and dialed her number. As the phone rang, my pounding heart threatened to render me deaf to her voice or whoever picked up the phone. I slammed the phone down. I had to be able to hear.

Now I had to wait for at least 10 minutes so no one would think I had just rung and hung up. When I tried again, I noticed that I was able to breathe as the phone rang again. When the phone was answered, I don’t recall what was said. But I do remember that it went much better than I thought it would, mostly thanks to Natalie. After I hung up, I stopped and took stock of what had happen. After all I knew this was a milestone.

I had almost driven myself crazy for no reason. I made vow to never again think too much before I tired to do something I wanted to do. Thinking too much only allows anxiety to build. “Trust yourself and just do it”, I told myself.

Fast forward 53 years. I am in Queenstown New Zealand on the shores of Lake Wakatipu standing on a bungee platform.

I am being given instructions and being outfitted with a harness. The instructions have to do with what I should do to be hauled back up after I stop bouncing up and down. And the anxiety is starting to build, my heart is pounding, my breathing is shallow and labored, and I started to think how I was going to leap off.

I flashed back to my call to Natalie. I smiled at the photographer. Then I took 2 steps and jumped.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Life as a Paper Carrier

When I was 11, I wanted to be a paper carrier. I knew the paper carrier who delivered our local newspaper, the Council Bluffs Nonpareil, and he made it seem like an easy way to make money, something always valued in our house. There were also two other newspapers in town, the Omaha World Herald and the Des Moines Register. Both of them required carriers to be 12 year’s old. The headquarters for the Des Moines Register was right next to the bike repair shop and the model airplane model shop. I would occasionally frequent both. One day I went into the Register office and asked if they needed carriers for my neighborhood. They did. I think they assumed I was over 12 because I was tall because age. They did not ask.

The very young manager stopped at our house for my parents to sign the consent form and it was only then did he learn of my true age, but an agreement was made that I could be a carrier because I was only 3-4 of months away from 12.

Someone trained me during a couple of runs, I was given a route book and I was a carrier for the Des Moines Register. My daily route consisted of only 12 to 15 customers spread out over several miles and up several very steep streets. The town was not called Council Bluffs without reason. If the hills were ski slopes, they would be labeled “black diamond” runs. The route required a bicycle and even with a bike the route would take an hour of moving quickly. The biggest thing about the Des Moines Register was that papers were delivered in the morning.

Each morning I would rise at 6 AM, dress, hop on my bike, and pedal slightly down hill for 8 blocks and pick up my papers. I would then pedal back up the street delivering a few papers along the way. In the late 1940’s, bicycles had no derailleur so there was only one gear and braking was done by reversing the pedals to engage the braking system. When I would reach one of the steeper hills, I would peddle as far as I could then hop off and push my bike up the rest of the way. The steepness of the hill made riding down exhilarating. Slight braking was used to maintain control. If things went as planned all the papers were delivered before 7:30 with leaving time to eat breakfast and prepare for school.

It was truly a lonely job. But most of the time, I enjoyed the loneliness. That early in the morning, no one was around. I learned a lot about how people lived just my being able to examine their houses, yards, and cars with a freedom of knowing no one was watching me. One of the joys was experiencing a sun rise when clear weather allowed. I always saw some magic in a sun rise, the way the shadows changed rapidly and in particular, the aroma of warmth. Rain gear was occasionally needed making everything more difficult but the real problem was in the winter.

In the winter dealing with the cold and snow on the ground sometimes were major obstacles. Many a time, it wasn’t fun. I’d wake up in pitch darkness and dread facing the cold. When there was snow on the ground, I had to walk the route which meant I had to get up at 5:30 to get everything done.

On Sunday, I had about 50 papers to deliver and the Register had the weightiest Sunday paper in either Iowa of Nebraska. Each paper weighed over a pound. In bicycle weather, I had room for half the papers in my bicycle basket and half in a bag I slung over my back. Keeping me and the bicycle upright was not always possible and sometimes one of the loads would shift and I would have to let the bike fall and try to stay up right. I tired to protect the papers from getting dirty but not at the sacrifice of falling with my bike.

When winter’s snow was on the ground, I would put two layers of socks on my feet and heavy overshoes over my shoes. With the added weight the cold seemed to amplify itself with each crunch, crunch, crunch in the frigid snow. Walking was done with determination and purpose to keep warm and to fight the cold away. Sometimes it was just too fucking cold for man or beast let alone me. At least all the mean dogs were inside, not out patrolling their territory. It was a time to feel sorry for myself. Typically, my mother would attend to me more than usual on those days, and would fix some hot chocolate and bring it to me as I sat perched on the radiator.

On Sundays when I couldn’t use a bicycle, I had to start my route carrying about 75 pounds on my back. I weighed about 135 pounds then. I believe that this burden led to permanent damage to my back because my bones were not strong enough to support this weight at a time when I was growing rapidly.
Friday nights and Saturday mornings were set aside for going house to house collecting for the paper. If a customer took both the daily and Sunday papers the cost was 45 cents or 5 cents for each daily paper and 15 cents for the Sunday issue. The outside of my route book consisted of two 4 x 8 inch hard black plastic pieces for the front and back held together by two large metal loose leaf paper rings. Inside was a card for each customer that had perforated payment coupons dated for each week. When a customer paid, I tore off the little coupon and gave it to them as proof of payment. The printing on Sunday only customer’s cards was red and it was black for all week customers. I would make about two dollars a week. Considering that a loaf of bread cost 10 cents then, being able to have a couple of dollars to spend any way I wanted taught me how to manage money at an early age.

As you might guess, The Register was more of a newspaper for the entire state of Iowa with added local news for Des Moines. People that wanted more news that the local paper offered usually added the larger Omaha World Herald as their second paper. For those reasons there was low Des Moines Register daily readership in Council Bluffs. To try to increase circulation, they had all kinds of promotions with awards given out when you got 3 new customers. We were taught some sales techniques and attitudes to adopt. But I felt really awkward, knocking door to door and being rejected before I could give my spiel again and again. Some people would be nice enough to let me finish before they thanked me and closed the door. I don’t remember the details of one promotion, but I was given a chance to buy a new bicycle for $37 paying a little from my earnings each week. Since I already had a bicycle, I ordered a girl’s bike for my sister and gave it to her.

The manager had a very good looking wife who helped her husband run the operation. One time I announced that I wanted to quit. She talked me out of it using her feminine charms. She had big blue eyes, light brown hair that fell onto her slim shoulders, milk white skin, and lips that looked oh so wet and soft. My hormones were starting to scream at me then and there was no way I could resist the way she looked at me as she touched my arm.

After a year and a half, I had the opportunity to deliver the Council Bluffs Nonpareil and I made sure she was not around when turned in my notice to quit.

This was definitely a step up for me. Almost everyone subscripted to the local paper and it was published in the afternoon. No more early morning routine which meant I could stay up later in the evening. The route consisted of 6 city blocks on both sides of the street and I had about 50 customers for every day of the week. I also made 4-5 dollars a week. Actually, I had less work and made more money.

I got really fast at folding papers for throwing and once all of them were folded I would ride down the sidewalk firing a paper at a porch at almost every house. I had one steep hill, Lainson Street, very close to our house. It was too steep to ride up, so each day I ended deliveries by walking up throwing papers as I went. At the top of the hill where the street ended was a big house that was quite a bit higher off the street. It was a monstrous throw to the porch, but I tried it almost every time knowing that I would have to climb all the steps and retrieve the paper if I missed. It was so satisfying when I was successful that I never stopped trying. This must be the same mechanism that addicts some gamblers.

I tried to make friends with all dogs on the route. Some could not be be-friended and I learned how to avoid them. I was bitten twice. I broke a door window once when my throw was a little too strong. Once I threw a paper on the roof. I learned about dead beat customers and learned that the best thing would have been to stop delivery until they paid in order to reduce my losses. Once in a while I would catch a delinquent and have 2-3 dollars more in my pocket as a result.

I had one of those coin holders that I wore on my belt so I could dispense change quickly without digging in my pockets and trying to find the correct amount in the midst of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. Yes, I said half dollars. They would so handy to have. These were the same coin holders that street car conductors wore which helped me establish myself as a serious business person. Well, at least in my mind.
Saturday afternoon was the time to bring your collections to the office and pay your bill. What was left over was your profit.

I kept by paper route until I got through 7th grade. I don’t really remember why I quit but I know part of the reason was that I got burnt out and other means to earning money were available.

Carrying papers was not easy, but working hard was greatly rewarded in our family and it was a means to finance what ever I wanted to buy for myself. When I look back on the experience, it occurs to me that I went to work every day, rain or shine, heat or cold with no vacation because we never took a vacation. And I do wish I grew up with a straight back.

Today, papers are delivered by adults using cars. I am sure that it was necessary to increase the cost of papers in order to pay adults enough for them to want the job. It kind of saddens me to see that boys or girls 12-16 years old don’t have an opportunity to deliver papers anymore. But in today’s world I doubt that any of them would want to.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Memories of WWII

It has been my desire to write about my experiences I had as I grew up so my children and their children could have a little insight into their heritage. My grandmother wrote about her life growing up in the middle of Nebraska and I read things she wrote with great interest.

I found out there is a local college that offers adult education classes so I signed up for a writing class. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I soon found out that the class time consists of each class member reading aloud what they have prepared each week. There is no restriction about subject matter. There is no critique of the writing, nor are there suggestions given on how to improve. So I guess the main purpose of the class is to write.

So I am posting my first effort and will continue to do so as the class moves along. I have added picture in this post of the sake of providing further impact to support things as I remember them.

Memories of WWII

I remember the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, Dec. 7th 1941. I had just turned 6 years old. The reason I remember the day was because my parents were huddled around the radio listening with obvious angst. Children are very sensitive to the fact that their parents are in stress as their well being is at stake. Had I not walked in and witnessed them, I would not have remembered this day. It was their tension that I remembered more than anything.

I asked what the matter was and at first they were at a loss for words to explain something like this to a six year old, but they told me something that did not cause me worry, but did solicit further questions.

The next time I was really aware of the war was in 1943 when I was in 3rd grade. Our school held regularly scheduled paper, rubber, and scrap metal drives. Our school went up to 5th grade, and all students from 3rd through 5th grades were let out of school for a morning to scour our neighborhoods from door-to-door collecting what households had set aside for us.

Toothpaste tubes were metal in those days as were the caps. Every household saved these for our collection although the volume of metal was slight. When a tin can was emptied, both ends were pealed off, stuck inside the can cylinder and then stepped on to flatten everything. Then the paper was stripped off

If you had a wagon you brought it to school, to be used it to collect stuff. When it was full you pulled it to the school yard, emptied it, and hurried off for more precious cargo.

Another war effort could be found in school. Every Friday, students would bring a dime or quarter if they had one and buy a U.S. saving bond stamp to put into stamp book.

Eventually, the ultimate goal was to have enough stamps to buy a $25 savings bond. In a way, it was my first indication of social class. Because students of parents not well off had no money to buy stamps, most of us brought a dime, and those better off, brought a quarter. The dime ones were pink and the quarter ones were green.
When I was a year older, I would go to the movies with my parents every Friday night. The cost was 10 cents for children under 12 and 25 cents for adults. Usually there was a double feature, a cartoon, and a newsreel which usually began by showing the latest news about the war. This is General MacArthur returning to the Philippines in 1944.
When the Nazi or Japanese flag was shown, there would always be a loud boo from the audience. When the 48 star American flag was shown, there would be a very loud cheer. These were mostly adults voicing their emotions.

I never witnessed nor knew about the dark, early days of the war. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day) I was almost 8 years 7 months old. Therefore most of my knowledge about the war was when America was winning the war on both fronts.

My father, Floyd, had flat feet which kept him from being eligible for the army even though he was an outstanding athlete. He was 27 when the war started. He had two brothers, Clifford (7 plus yrs younger) and Charles (5 plus yrs younger), and I know that Uncle Chuck was in the army. For some reason, I don’t know if Uncle Cliff was in the army but I think he was later in the war.

I remember vividly the day FDR died in April 1945. I was fourth grade almost 9 ½ years old. I remember hearing then unknown Harry Truman gave a speech on the radio the next day, but I have no idea what he said. But most people I was around thought it was a good speech.

During the war, certain commodities were very difficult to obtain. Being able to get an inner tube for a tire was a big deal. Families had ration books filled with stamps. One had to tear out stamps and give them to the grocer when you wanted to buy meat and certain other staples. There were separate stamps for meat, appropriately colored pink. Each stamp was good for some given amount of weight by ounce. Stamps had an expiration date on them. If you ran out of meat stamps, you had to wait until the next time slot to buy meat again which may have been a week later. Back then everyone wanted to be friends with the butcher.

We didn’t own a car. But if we did, we would have had to worry about having enough stamps to buy gasoline. Transportation for us was walking or taking a street car, which fortunately ran right past our house. We took the street car to the center of Council Bluffs, and then transferred to a bigger Omaha bound street car if we wanted to do something in Omaha. My father was a restaurant manager in Omaha, for what would now be called a fast food chain of restaurants, It was a sit on a tool, and get some food cooked on a grill type restaurant. He told the car street to work every day, expect Sunday.

We dug up about 10 square feet of our back yard to plant a victory garden which was a way to produce more food. We planted peas, carrots, beets, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans. It was mostly my job to weed the garden with a hoe and make sure the plants got enough water. Our garden did indeed supply us with fresh vegetables and they were much better than those out of a can.

The German front had already fallen to the Allies when the Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The news was widely received as a hope it would end the war with Japan. There was absolutely no criticism to be heard. The war propaganda machine had been already preparing us for the difficulty of invading the Japanese homeland which lay ahead. By that time we knew that the suicide bombers had had some success attacking our ships and it was expecting that the Japanese would fight to the very end. The casualties would have huge for both nations. Hiroshima below.
Everyone was greatly relieved when the war was over and there was much celebration. Not necessary a Times Square type celebration,
but the end of the war was also celebrated with thought and remembrances of those wounded or who lost their lives.
The newsreels kept me informed about the closings phases of the war and big coverage was given to the peace signing on the Battleship Missouri, which now rests in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor where the war started.
More than anything else concerning the war, I learned how it felt to be a part of something that every American was part of. The War effort. All Americans were truly united in a way that proved the core strength of our country was the ability to come together and achieve a difficult task. United we stood.

I have always considered WWII as the first conscious phase of my life. In November 1945, I was 10 years old and moved into phase two. It began an age of optimism.