Sunday, December 10, 2006


News came that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. The day was Sunday, December 7, 1941. This was the beginning of a unique education for a six year old boy living in Beaumont, Texas. I had never heard of a Pearl Harbor. I didn’t even know what one looked like.

Mrs. Ruth Hill’s first grade class had a few changes in curriculum. We learned what to do in case bombs were dropped on J. L. Giles Elementary School. Mrs. Hill taught us how to walk orderly to the cloak room. The cloak room was a separate area at one end of the classroom where the students could hang their jackets and raincoats. We would sit on the floor along the walls of the cloak room. This would lessen our chances of being hit by flying glass, falling bricks, bullets, or whatever.

We pupils joined a U. S. Savings Bond program. War savings stamps were sold. When the correct amount was reached, which I think was $18.75, the stamps could be redeemed into a $25 Savings Bond. One of my favorite assignments as a pupil was to carry the stamp money to the school office each morning to purchase stamps for the class. I marched down the hall to the office. I figured a soldier wouldn’t just walk.

Also, we learned war songs. We would sing them in class and in auditorium assemblies. One song I remember is “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” It went as follows:

Yankee Doodle went to town
To buy a stick of candy,
But on the way he saw some bonds
And said, “They’ll come in handy.”
Yankee Doodle keep it up;
Yankee Doodle dandy.
Buy War Bonds and Stamps today
Instead of so much candy.

Then there were the practice air raids. We called them “blackouts.” Every house had to have black curtains installed. When the sirens sounded, the curtains were pulled. Even though there might be lights inside the houses, the curtains would prevent light from being seen on the outside. This was designed to confuse enemy bombers that needed light to locate targets.

My dad was an air raid warden. Every other night or so, we would have a blackout. Several men from the area would come to our house. Then they would patrol the neighborhood, looking for lights and fires. Any house found with lights showing would receive a knock at the door and a command to close their black curtains or douse the lights. I enjoyed walking with the men until an official from town said that I had to stay at home.

Rationing is another memory I have of WW II. We could buy just so much sugar every so often; that is, if sugar could be found. Coca-Cola had to stop using sugar. The Cokes had another sweetener. I believe it was something like honey. The Cokes tasted really awful.

Gasoline was hard to come by. We could buy only so much gasoline for our family car. A slogan became popular, “Is This Trip Really Necessary?” A Star Taxi cab driver told my dad that the cab company was rationed to 50 gallons per week. All of this was regulated by the use of rationing stamps. If you used your weekly or monthly allotments up too quickly, you just had to wait.

One afternoon, in 1945, I was relaxing in the top branches of my favorite tallow tree. A buddy came over, looked up and told me that the war was over. This was good news for me because I knew that Cokes would get back to normal.

And so did life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Winston Hamby


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