The Forties … As I Remember Them

Submitted by

Barbara A. Seixas, nee Schreiber



            The Year was 1941.  I was five years old and the youngest of three.  My brother Buzz Schreiber was 21 years old; he worked for the U.S. government and was stationed in a beautiful place called Pearl Harbor Hawaii.


            I attended North Side School and remember warm and caring teachers and staff – just how wonderful and special they were I would discover a short time later.


            Then came the day that we should never forget, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, the beginning of World War II.  Like all small children everywhere, I became very frightened.  Air raid drills began.  Sometimes we just crawled under our desks.  Other times we stood in the hall with our hands shielding our heads.  We were then led across the street to an assigned neighborhood home to take shelter in their basement.  Each of us wore a dog tag made of a square piece of masonite on which was written our name, address, telephone number, and the address of the home to which we were assigned.  The custodians  Mr. Cobb and  Mr. Johnson, the teachers Miss McKay (Bengeyfield), Miss Fox, Miss Sherman, the cook Mrs. Cob, and Mr. Sprague the principal would be near to assure us with a pat on the tush, an arm around a shoulder, a quick hug and soft assuring words to comfort us during this uncertain time.


            As children we did our part to help the war effort.  Tin was in short supply and very much needed.  Empty clean tin cans from home were flattened with the top and the bottom removed and placed on the inside of the can.  We brought as many of these flattened cans as we could and placed them in a bin to be picked up later by an official from the Department of the Army.  All foil, even that from a stick of gum, was amassed into a ball and also brought to school and put into a bin.  Fridays were special because they were Red Cross days.  Everyone wanted to sport a white pin with a red cross on his or her lapel.  This was the much-coveted reward for contributing one dime to help the sick and the wounded.  It was very important to us to feel like we were helping in some small but significant way.


            Daily life had also changed at home.  Sugar was in short supply.  People stood for hours in lines to obtain a single chicken.  There was no butter. Instead, there was a white lard-like substance with a packet of yellow food coloring to resemble that much coveted commodity.


We had a car and were very fortunate that my parents worked for the Long Island Railroad.  That meant that we were given increased allotments for tires and gasoline.  That really came in handy as one day our car was found near the Community Church balanced on cinder blocks, its four tires with a new “owner”. 


            During the evening the ladies spent many hours knitting mittens, hats, socks and sweaters all in olive green or navy blue to be sent to warm our soldiers.  The Red Cross furnished the skeins which the children held while their elders rolled the yarn into balls.


            The air raid drills disturbed both our evenings and our sleep.  My job was to drop a cloth over the lit dial of the radio to block out all light.  Everyone had something to do to make sure that total darkness prevailed in the event of an air strike.


            Candy was always in short supply, especially chocolate candy bars.  When a shipment of chocolate bars arrived at the local candy store, which was called Berry’s candy store. Rose Berry, the owner, would never display the candy where it could be purchased.  Instead, the proprietors called the parents of those serving in the armed services and gave them the opportunity to purchase it first and include it in their next care package to be sent abroad.  On one wall of the store there was a very large bulletin board that proudly displayed pictures of the local young men and women or relatives of locals who were serving in the war effort.


            Banners with stars hung in windows throughout the village signifying young men and women in uniform far away from home.  Our home was no different.  A star on a banner hung with honor in our window for Bobby my other brother, who served over twenty years in the United States Navy.  And now again, we find ourselves with our young men and women in uniform far away from home and fighting for freedom.  God bless them and God bless America.