Monday, October 26, 2009

On the Home Front-- Part Two: Working! By Aunt CB

Patriotism, it seems to me, has dwindled since this time. We saved magazines “for the boys,” paperback books came out as a big item better to be carried by servicemen, we collected newspapers (for what I don’t know) and this was not just young people, it was everyone. We were all in this together. I’ve not seen this cooperation in any subsequent war. Perhaps it was the sneak attack which propelled our war entry or the persuasiveness of FDR, at an rate there were few black market junkies.

Early in our war years, Sampson Naval Base on Seneca Lake was opened. Geneva was awash with sailors. One Christmas I worked at Grant’s 10 cent store and spent 1/4 of my time in the basement, looking for boxes in which to package sailors' Christmas purchases to be mailed home.

One fellow came in, spied a huge 4 foot Teddy bear and had to have it for his 2 year old niece. I explored the basement for a BIG box and he and I spent 45 minutes stuffing Teddy in the box, covering it with brown paper and tying all with string (no tape then!), ready for the Post Office. All this for $3.98.

And then there was a humungous sailor who came in, wanting a gift for his mother. He was from “up-hill in West Virginia” and wanted something special for her because “I wanna git her somethin she’d not buy fer herself, I miss her cookin’.” He chose an apron! The flimsiest, ruffled, embroidered tea apron I ever saw. As I wrapped it for mailing I said, “Nice choice,” doubting that she’d ever wear it but hoping that she would hang the dainty garment on the wall of her cabin to show all who visited what “her baby” had sent her!

When war summer arrived, I put on my boy overalls and long sleeved shirt (which shocked Grandma Baker when Gladys and I wore them), tied up my hair in a bandana and got a job as a drill press operator at the American Can Co. I was really into the war effort! One day when Sam, the “set up” fellow was adjusting my press for a job he said, “Be very careful with this job, as it’s a really important cog in the defense industry.”

Thus, I carefully aligned my press along the proper positions while I bored 14 holes in thru a “Y” shaped piece to meet one larger bore done at the end of the shape. I knew I was preparing a bomb sight or at least a machine gun sight. It took me most of the day and as I returned it to the Receiver, job done, I felt great pride in my job as I helped to win the war. As I signed it in, I asked the fellow, “What part of the machine is this?” His response, “Oh this? Why, it’s the spout for a beer machine!” It took a couple more years for us to win the war!

And finally, in May of 1945 we finished in Europe and in August, Japan capitulated. That summer I spent as a telephone operator in Geneva. Sampson Naval Base was still humming along and the fellows there had to line up to use a phone booth so we were busy. An operator took a call when we were dialed, determined what number was to be dialed and waited for the proper number of klinks that designated that 3 minutes was paid for, listened for a recipient’s answer and, when connection was assured, we butted out and went on to our next call.

This I did with a call and when the phone was lifted in the home, heard, “Hello,” followed by a shouted, “Hey, Ma,”concluded with a gasp and a shrill sliding sound, as though a door had been hastily opened.

“Hello, Jr is this you, are you OK?," shouts Ma, as I still hear gasps and coughs and a door being shunted back and forth. A sound of “Wait, Ma,” gurgled through the earpiece to me–and then a huge “Whewww!”

“Jr, are you OK?” Ma shouts again, to which Jr replies, “Ma, the fellow in here before me must have had a bucket of beans for dinner and I’ve been trying to air the place out! What a blister!” At that point I hung up, trying to stifle my laughter and share the joke with my pal Mary Lou Ireland, who sat next to me!

Picture One: Sampson Air Force Base
Picture Two: Nope, Could not find it—ANYONE find or draw just what Ma described in the phone booth?! Hilarious! (Left is Sue's idea of the source of the problem in the first place.)


Pat said...

Thanks, Ma--wonderful to read!

Of course, we seem to have a soft spot for 'smelly jokes', what with our recording of the International Wind-Breaking Contest featuring Lord Windemere and Paul Boomer and all...


Pat said...




Dad ( Jack K.) said...

I joined the Navy in 1944, when Sampson Naval Base was at its peak. Since I lived less than 10 miles from there, you ould think the Navy would send me there for boot camp. Nope, I was sent to Jacksonville, Florida!
Jack Kinsella

Diana said...

OMG - I saw the picture of the Sampson Base and just started to laugh - I do believe that when they tore it down - someone that we know (one Arnon L Taylor) decided it was just the thing to have when you were building a house and he got the rights to 'salvage' the top floor of one. So any of you that were ever at the house on Brickyard Road - the flooring came from that base, and dad took apart the windows cut the glass and made new frames and that was the windows in the front of the house.

I had forgotten about that base until I saw the picture - some kids went to summer camp - I helped rip up flooring from an old army base!

Thanks for reminding me with that picture!

Pat said...


That's a great story!!

So, history lives on, in many more ways than we often think of--bet the people now living in that house have no idea where their windows and floorboards came from!