Family and Friends on the Homefront during WWII
WW II service flag
The Home Front
It was the mid-1940’s, the place is northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota and my story is about some young men who were in the military service at the ending days of World War II. We tend to forget how young our fighting men and women are. We forget that they are, at heart, still teen agers and often act like teen agers when they get home.
It’s about my family and the times of the Second World War on the home front. It relies on my memories and since I was about seven years years old, I have had to also use information from other people since, I was too young to really know what was going on.
The events are about my oldest brother and his friends. I am the youngest of three children, being seven years junior to Wally—the youngest of my brothers. I have a sister Rose Marie who is eight years older than me. Lyle was the oldest and ten years older than me. Rose Marie and I are the only ones still living.Warren was a friend of Lyles from high school and is still living. Carlos was a shipmate of Lyle’s in the United States Navy, although he was not an American. I don’t know where he is now.
Pack up your troubles
Second World War
In that period of the Second World War almost every able bodied man or boy ove 17 was in the military services. My oldest brother, Lyle, who was ten years my senior, was graduating from high school. He didn’t want to go into the Army, so he tried to enlist in the Navy.. As luck would have it, the Navy turned him down because of poor eyesight. However, they told him, if he got a draft notice to come back and they would see what they could do. Six months later, he did get a draft notice; he went back to the recruiting a station and he became a sailor.
I think if there had been an air force back then he would have wanted that. He loved airplanes and made a lot of model planes.
What I remember the most was sending Lyle off to camp. Railroads were the main transportation then. The station was filled with soldiers and sailors leaving for wherever they were going. Someone led them in songs. I especially remember one called “Pack up you troubles in your old kit bag..” It seemed sort of bitter sweet to me. Mom would also give him a box with cookies and other stuff. We regularly mailed stuff to him after that.
To get on with the story, Lyle met Carlos, I think at Great Lakes Naval Station where they would have had boot camp. I don’t know what country Carlos was from but it would be a South American one. He was in the United States going to college on what I think was a football scholarship. However, he was also a tennis player and, I believe won some tournaments. Ditto with chess. Lyle had no interest in sports , except swimming, had no interest in tennis or chess. His thing was music, art, and electronics. After boot camp he did take courses in radio and radar in the Navy. Later in college he was in the University Marching Band and designed the band formations.
For whatever reasons Lyle and Carlos became friends and Lyle invited him home to visit us when they had leave. Probably the war prevented Carlos from going to his home country. It turned out that Carlos was not the perfect house guest. It may have been a cultural thing but he got very upset over our mother because one of his socks was lost when she did the laundry. She, in turn, was upset because he should have been grateful she was doing his laundry and being treated as a guest in the house.
I don’t know what actually happened. The men in our family have a Scandinavian, somewhat easy going attitude, but not mother. She was of Canadian French descent and had a temper. I suspect Carlos learned something of American customs.
One incident involved me. Did I mention that Carlos was a chess champion of some sort? I don’t remember who initiated the game but I played chess against Carlos, and to his surprise I won the game….He was very upset, in fact, and demanded a rematch. My brother Wally thought it was silly for Carlos to get upset. After all I was just a kid and won by dumb luck. Well, I found that insulting, and still do. You win, you win. I don’t recall what happened after that.
Carlos and Warren
The real conflict was with Warren and Carlos. Warren was a fast driver and in his eighties now, still is. One thing we forget about guys in the military is that they are teen agers and sometimes act like teenagers. In this case, I gather, they went for a ride in Warren’s car and he made a lot of fast starts, screeching tires, quick stops just barely stopping at stops signs. Sort of typical hot-rodding behavior back then.
Carlos, being from a country where cops were not your friends had mortal fear of police. Carlos hide behind the seats. In truth Carlos would not have had much problem with Cops in Minneapolis. He was legal and a member of the armed forces. Soldiers and other service members were heroes back then.
This was all toward the end of the war and servicemen came home in droves. Lyle came home and went to college on the GI bill and moved to California. That is where I saw Carlos again. It was late 1950’s. Dad had died in 1952 so I took mother to Los Angeles for Lyles wedding. By that time Lyle was established as an engineer for Los Angeles County. He and some friends rented a house in the Hollywood hills. Nice digs overlooking the Hollywood bowl. . One of these friends turned out to be Carlos. I was in my mid-twenties and going to college.
I don’t recall if I played any chess with Carlos but he did invite me to play tennis, which was a game I took up in high school. It turns out that Carlos was also a star tennis player. No, I did not win against him but it was a fun game. He told me that back home they played on dirt courts barefooted. He seemed to be a nice guy and I thought it nice of him to entertain and show a guest around town.
It was sometime after we were back in Minneapolis that Mother told me Carlos had proposed marriage to her. She was very upset and embarrassed by having such a young man seek her attention.
The last I heard of Carlos, he had gone back to South America and involved in politics there. He seemed like a nice guy but I’m not sure if I wanted him as a father.
Popular World War II Song
© 2014 Don A. Hoglund
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