On February 9, I called my grandma, Mary Ann Hackman to talk to her about what she remembers of World War 2 reports when she was growing up. This is what she had to say.
“Okay. I was about 5 years old when the war started, so by the time the war was over I was already 8 or 9 years old.”
Her perspective is that of farm kid without electricity until close to the end of the war. She explained that a lot of their information came from a battery radio that was staticky and had poor reception.
“I can picture my dad standing next to the radio with his ear right by it because the batteries were so poor.”
Everything at that time was either scarce or rationed, so radio batteries were conserved. Typically they listened for things like markets or weather, but once the war started they also listened for information related to what was going on in Europe.
“I remember when we had these blackouts and you were not supposed to have any lights on in your house. This was to prepare us for if there was an air raid. We got our instructions from the radio.” In the event that an air raid did happen, the person behind the microphone “would tell you how far away they were maybe, or where to go for shelter if you weren’t at home.”
“If we went to the movies, they had news reels on, and it would be of ships being bombed or that kind of thing. But we only went to a movie once or twice a year because tires were scarce, as well as gas. But people in cities would have seen more. They showed cities that had been bombed in Europe, bridges that were out, and that kind of thing.
“Newspapers were really our most important link to what was going on out there.” We got a daily paper, the Telegraph Herald, from Dubuque, Iowa, and world news was in that.”
Their connection to any government notice would come down to the local level through the newspapers. Mail also traveled relatively quickly because of the many train routes.
On a related note, she told me that when people would send letters to service men they would write on just one side of the paper, because the letters were censored if they were located near a war zone. People would get letters back that had pieces cut out of them, because if the enemy got ahold of it, it would give them information as to where American soldiers were stationed. So, some information was kept hidden.
She also said that, “When we were at war back then, everyone was behind it.” People had victory gardens, which were basically vegetable gardens that they grew food in to make canned goods for soldiers. Every person had a ration book as well; one per family member. These books were color coded. For example, green could have been for vegetables, and they had others for gas, shoes, tires, etc. “Farmers got more gas ones because they had to have [gas] for their tractors to raise food. So we could’ve cheated and put some of that gas in the car, but there was not that much extra of anything.” They also had scrap iron drives, and kids would take gunny sacks out into the fields to collect milkweed pods. The fluffy parts of the pods were used to make a lightweight filler/padding.
“News reels scared the hell out of us kids; well, everybody. But we were just scared to hear an airplane go over. We thought ‘is that a bomber?’ They [parents] didn’t want to talk about the war a lot in front of us kids. We knew it was bad and scary, but we just knew enough to be scared that it could be here. We didn’t really understand what was going on. It was a scary time.”
My grandma summed it up well by saying, “It was just really an all-out effort, whether you wanted to be a part of it or not.”
**Fun Fact: My great aunt Ivanelle Crowe was a news reporter for the New Hampton paper. She didn’t have much to do with the war, but it’s cool that she was a reporter!