I would rather be writing about music or something else nice to think about, but for some reason, I have decided to write about wars. With so much fighting and bombing going on in the world, is it any wonder that the topic of war is on my mind? I can’t turn on a TV news program without seeing a war going on somewhere in the world.
I have clear memories of World War II going on while I was in the 2nd grade. We lived in Galion, Ohio at the time. I remember Mom handing me some rations and some money to go to the corner store for some sugar. Sugar was one of many things that was rationed during WW II.
Mom was fixing 3 meals a day, everyday, for our family of nine back in 1944. The nine consisted of my four sisters, two brothers, two parents and me. We were lucky to be living in the city of Galion, Ohio, because up to that time, we had lived in some houses in the country that had no electricity and/or running water.
But by 1944, we were fortunate to live in a place that had both. I remember how much she worried about having enough food and also enough clothes for us to wear to school every day.
During that same time is when there were Blackouts going on in our neighborhood. No one could have their lights on during the assigned nights. They were called tests, to make sure that if an enemy bomber flew over, they wouldn’t be able to see the city below them. But, I didn’t know they were just tests. I thought we were going to be bombed. I wondered why no one else seemed upset about anything, except the inconvenience of having to be in the dark.
The first movie I ever saw in a real movie theater was when we lived there in Galion. It was one about U.S. fighter planes. The best part of that movie was the patriotic music that was played. It made me want to get up and march. I remember wanting to go back and see that movie again, because hearing that marching music was new to me at that time.
All of the above happened while I was in the second grade. But when school was out and the summer almost over, we moved to Delaware. I was going to enter the third grade in this new town.
It was so much better to be living in Delaware. Everyone was very happy when WW II came to an end. All I knew was that it was great to feel safe. I remember seeing flags hanging in the front windows of some homes I passed on my way to school.
The young men who had lived in those houses had been killed in the war. It was always sad for me to see the flags, knowing that there was a mother in that house who had lost a son in a war that was going on so far away from home, in another country.
In the 1950s and 60s, my brothers, Bob and Jerry, and also my husband, George, all served in the Army. Bob was stationed in Germany during his two years, while Jerry and George were in the states in Reserve units. While they were in Reserves, they served six months active duty and then had Reserve meetings every Monday night for six years. They also had to go to summer camp for two weeks each summer of those six years.
There is a song I have never forgotten from that period of time. It’s called “Over There,” and was sung by James Cagney. I’m not sure of the exact words, but these are the ones that have stuck with me all these years since. “Over there, Over there, send the word, send the word over there, that the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming ……. We’ll be over, we’re coming over, and we won’t come back ‘till it’s over, over there.”
I remember seeing old black and white newsreels of the Andrews Sisters singing some patriotic songs, too.
I remember them mostly because they were always wearing army uniforms. If you would like to hear the wonderful patriotic music, including the “Over There” song, search on your computer for the title of “Over There,” and you should find all the songs that are the patriotic ones of WW I and WW II. They include the first time Kate Smith ever sang “God Bless America,” as well as getting to hear “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
I see that even though I started writing about WW II, I have ended up writing something about music after all. I am aware that there are young people who have never known a time in their lives when there wasn’t a war going on somewhere.
So, I want to end with one word I wish for everyone everywhere — whether it’s over here or over there. And that word is peace.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.