It’s been a while since I wrote Part 1; many things have got in the way of starting Part 2, but here I am again. I have to “stoke” the fires of my memory because this one goes back – way back. Since it’s nearing Memorial Day, my thoughts have turned to wartime, and trying to remember some cloudy sights and sounds. Bear with me.
It was during World War II. My earliest recollections as a very young girl are of gathering around a piano. My parents were very friendly with some couples: Ruth & Marty and Evelyn & Paul. I believe my mother’s youngest sister, was there too, since she was married to Ruth’s and Evelyn’s brother and he was away at war. She was very close with her in-laws.
I remember the Brooklyn apartment that Ruth and Marty lived in. It was above a “dry goods” store that was owned by Ruth’s and Evelyn’s mom and dad. They sold “necessities” like underwear, socks, kitchenware, aprons, children’s clothing, shoes, etc.
There was a private area at the back of the store where my aunt lived with my uncle until they were able to find an apartment. They brought their first-born (my cousin) there after he was born. During and after the war, apartments were a very difficult commodity to find. So, even though extremely tiny, it was just enough for the time-being. During war, people “made do.”
Ruth and Marty’s apartment was also small, but they did have a separate bedroom, kitchen and living room.
I had good, happy feelings when we visited Ruth and Marty. They were a very lively couple, especially Aunt Ruth (I was told to call her that, even though she wasn’t my aunt) – she was extremely outgoing and welcomed everyone with open arms all the time. Singing was a way to try to put the thoughts of war and our family members fighting in Europe in harm’s way, aside. I always had a jolly time there, with Ruth’s sing-a-longs.
The popular song that I remember most was, “Sentimental Journey.” Aunt Ruth had the sheet music sitting at the piano, and we all gathered ’round and I read the words so I could sing, too.
I remember when there was sirens and a blackout, all the shades and curtains had to be tightly closed so no light would show through to the outside.
When those sirens sounded, we left the apartment and climbed a ladder in the hallway which led to the narrow opening onto the roof. Fortunately, everyone at that time wasn’t overweight, and we all fit through!
The view from the roof was scary to me, I remember. It was high for a little girl, and the spotlights moving around the sky were frightening. The night was warm – we didn’t have to put on any coats, as I remember. It was only a drill, but to me, it was real. We were there for some time, and then we were able to go back down into the apartment.
Another thing I remember during wartime: we had a “Victory” garden in our back yard. Between my father’s and his father’s work, the vegetables were beautiful.
Grandfather would chase down after the horses on the main street with his pail and shovel, to scoop up their droppings to use as fertilizer for the veggies.
I also remember that, during the war, my father’s brother’s wife, my Aunt Millie, lived upstairs. The small bedroom was converted to a kitchen. My parents gave up their bedroom, and moved downstairs and the living room became their bedroom, and I was relegated to the front “porch” room where there was no radiators. It was freezing in there during the winter and I remember shivering. I was still in a crib because there was no room for a bed in there.
My last memory during that time was when the war was declared “OVER.” I was allowed to stay up late. Even if I weren’t, I never would have been able to sleep. The whole neighborhood was whooping and hollering and I remember the banging and clanging of people running out of their houses and banging spoons, and all kinds of things on pots and pans, to show their joy at the war’s end.
All my uncles came home in one piece!