Sunday, August 18, 2013


Recently I have been watching some interesting book reviews on CSPAN2 about WWII and I was reminded of this 2009 post that some of you might have missed. 

My sister and I were just little twerps during the WWII years. In fact, I was 10 the year the War ended and since my father was not in the service and my uncles all came home safely, it affected us much less than others. One of the ways we “understood” about the war was in our game-playing. At school when recess came, our class and the other class of the same grade, probably we were third graders, would make a rush for the rings, which was the favored equipment on the playground. Whichever class got there first would yell over and over at the other class, “Here come the Axis”, which was the term used to describe those who fought against us in Europe. The winner was always called "the Allies." It hardly mattered who got there first; one day we would be the “Allies” because we got to the rings faster and the next day we would be the losers, the "Axis." At home we played war in the alley, dropping water filled balloon bombs on kids who lived on the other side of the alley as they came by, and we’d yell, “Take that, Tojo!” - Tojo being a much-hated and much talked about Japanese military leader.

One day some young boys in our neighborhood decided to recruit and build an army from among the neighborhood kids. One of the older boys – and by older I suppose he was 10 or 11 – became the Sergeant. In all he recruited about fifteen children, both boys and girls. Our first assignment was to get guns. We all scurried around to find pieces of wood to serve as our “rifles.” The Sergeant had us drill with these make-believe rifles. Up, down, up, down, left shoulder, right shoulder. He yelled a lot at the younger kids because they didn’t know “left” from “right” yet. He had us marching two by two up and down the sidewalk from one end of the block to another. It was summertime and we spent a great deal of time outdoors, learning to be good soldiers. Most of us had either daddies or uncles who were overseas fighting the Germans or the Japanese and we knew Sergeants were tough and we knew troops were obedient. Ginnie Lou and I, who were probably 6 and 8 years old at this time, were part of neighborhood’s loyal troops and did everything the Sergeant asked of us. Usually it was nothing more than marching or lying on our bellies aiming our pretend-rifles at the “enemy.”

However, one day the Sergeant informed us we were going to have a new drill. He said he expected his troops to comply with his orders. He lined us up at the edge of the sidewalk facing the lawn, toes barely touching the grass. He told us today’s drill was to fall over on our bellies without bending our knees and without letting our hands touch the ground to break our fall. The only thing we were allowed to do was turn our face to one side. Well, obedient soldiers that we were, all of us little kids one by one fell as he called our names. Clifford – splat – oof! Sammy – splat – oof! Darryl – splat – oof! My turn came. Barbara – splat – oof! Down I went, always wanting to please authority. Ginnie Lou – splat ---WAHHHHH, WAHHHHH!! My sister didn’t like that one bit and went running off into the house, bellowing at the top of her lungs. I followed close on her heels, secretly glad she had cried because I sure didn’t like the drill either but the only way to get out of it and save face was to run after her on the pretext of making sure she was ok.

The drills went on without us, the rest of the kids falling down one by one, until my mother came out in a royal huff. She told those boys they should be ashamed of themselves and if they ever did it again she was going to tell their mothers. They skulked away, and it was a long time before they ever allowed us to play any of games with them again. As far as my sister and I were concerned, the time away from them was no great loss. Playing paper dolls in our bedroom was much more to our liking.

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