“Son,” Betty addressed her son, Jeffry. “Would you go get some chairs for Father and I.”
“Thank you,” George said. “These bones of mine are about to crumble right out from beneath me.”
“No, they’re not,” Betty retorted. “But a rest wouldn’t hurt.”
Jeffry returned carrying a chair and his wife, Lisa, another. “So, this is where you’ve been hiding,” Lisa teased.
“I like being with others my own age,” George teased back, patting the tree.
“It doesn’t look like you’re minding the company of the young folk,” Lisa said with a smile.
George laughed. “Being together is what matters. That’s what my beloved Mary would say.” George quieted for just a moment then said, “But then she left me here alone.” George smiled at his gathered family. “I know I’m not alone. Thanks for celebrating with me today.” George turned his eyes skyward. “I hope you’re celebrating with us Mary.” Looking at Christopher and Jessica, two of his grandchildren, George told them, “Your great grandmother Mary loved to celebrate. Or maybe she just loved to bake cakes.”
George smiled and closed his eyes.
June 19, 1942
“I bought you something.” Mary came over to George and held up a white cloth.
“What is it?” George asked.
“It’s called a t-shirt.”
“What’s it for? I can’t go out wearing something like that.”
“Say thank you. It’s for when you are doing work around the house. Working on the car or fixing the pipes. It will be more cool and comfortable for you.”
“Thank you. And I have something for you.” George leaned over and kissed his wife. “You know what they say, ‘Life begins at forty,’ and with my new factory job we’ll be able to move into our own home. War is a terrible thing, but it sure increases demands for factories and labor. There’s plenty of work now, though sometimes you wouldn’t know it how some are fighting to keep the blacks from working in the factory. But if they can give their lives to fight in the war, it seems they should be able to earn a living too.”
“Well I’ll glad you’re earning a living instead of giving your life. I’m thankful you’re too old to enlist again. I want my family together.”
“I’m glad we’re together too,” George said. “Anyway, we can help the war effort from here. I’m working to produce planes for our fighters. You’re collecting the fat from your cooking. Betty’s collecting the aluminum foil wrappers of her chewing gum. William’s collecting rubber bands. We’re all contributing.”
“It’s a small price compared to giving your life.” Mary hugged George. “I better get to work on William’s birthday cake. Twelve years old already. It’s going to be the best butterless, eggless, milkless cake you’ve ever tasted.”
George laughed. “I know it will be delicious.”
August 14, 1945
“The Japanese have surrendered!” George ran through house and then the yard announcing the news. Neighbors came out of their homes as well and joined in the spontaneous celebration. “Mary! Mary! Get the kids. Let’s go over to my parents’ house to celebrate.”
On the drive Betty complained about all the honking and noise. “Betty, they’re celebrating! And I say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” George honked the car horn the rest of the way. Father was outside when they arrived.
“I knew you would come. Mother’s preparing a feast. We’re going to celebrate!” Betty joined Mary and Mother in the kitchen and William ran off into the street to be with the other boys pretending to be bombers flying over Japan.
While everyone was just gathering for dinner, Dorothy walked in the door. She came to the table and flopped down in a chair. “Well that was just what the doctor ordered.”
“What was?” Mary asked.
“I just got kissed,” Dorothy said. William let out a chuckle. Betty blushed.
“What?” Mother asked in shock.
“I was in the city when the victory was announced. Everyone rushed outside and I ended up in Times Square. This sailor was running down the street just kissing every woman he passed, the young ones and even the old ones like me.”
“He must be having a great day,” Mary said.
“Everyone’s having a great day today,” George added. “The war is over!”
March 6, 1946
George sat with his feet up, reading the daily paper. He began reading parts aloud to Mary.
Ladies and gentlemen, the United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future…A world organization has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war. UNO, the successor of the League of Nations, with the decisive addition of the United States and all that that means, is already at work. The United Nations Organization must immediately begin to be equipped with an international armed force…From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. All these famous cities and the populations around them lie, in what I must call the Soviet sphere, are all subject to an increasing measure of control from Moscow. The Communist parties are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control.
“What are you reading?” Mary asked from the sofa.
“It’s from a speech Winston Churchill gave yesterday at Westminster College in Missouri.”
“Why, he sounds like he’s ready for another war.”
“He says not,” George replied. “He says the point is to maintain peace not stir up another war. He does make it sound ominous though and he’s basically saying America is responsible for keeping the Communists at bay.”
“This is when it’s good to have trust in the Lord and not in men. How can we take care of the whole world and keep sinful men from sinning. We can’t. But the Lord holds all things in his hands.”
“You’re a good woman, Mary.” Mary gave George a wink.
What I know…
- Expressions: life begins at forty; if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em; just what the doctor ordered; keeping up with the Joneses (used in the 1950s chapter)
- Saving fat, rubber bands and aluminum foil for the troops were all real methods of helping the war effort.
- “Butterless, Eggless, Milkless Cake” was due to rationing. Sugar was also rationed.
- 1 c. brown sugar, ¼ c. water, 1/3 c. vegetable shortening, 2/3 c. raisins, ½ t. nutmeg, 2 t. cinnamon, ½ t. ground cloves, 1 t. salt, 1 t. baking soda, 2 c. flour, 1 t. baking powder
- Boil together for 3 minutes: sugar, water, shortening, raisins and spices. Add dry ingredients. Preheat oven to 325 and bake in a greased and floured 8 in. square pan. Bake about 50 minutes. Does not require frosting.
- You may find different dates for VJ day, but August 14th was when the news of the surrender was announced in the US and the celebrations and famous Times Square kiss took place. The sailor in the famous photo really didn’t know the nurse, the woman in the picture. He was just going down the street kissing every woman he passed, young and old.
- These are real quotes from Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech made on March 5, 1946 at a college in Missouri. I took tidbits from different parts of his speech and put them together. You can read the whole thing online.
- The United Nations (which you see was called UNO at first) was founded in 1945.
Other news in the world…
Battle of Britain
Nylons on the market (soon to be rationed for the war effort)
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor
Manhattan Project began
Mount Rushmore completed
Anne Frank goes into hiding
Japanese Americans held in camps
Ball point pens go on sale
First computer (ENIAC) fills a room
Microwave ovens invented
Slinky is sold in stores
U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier
“Big Bang” idea formulated
State of Israel founded
China becomes communist