Our Christmas in Minneapolis, Minnesota during World War 2 in Minnesota
A Family Christmas
It could be considered a tradition, although a short one, that we usually had Christmas with my aunt and uncle’s family As best I recall we exchanged presents on Christmas Eve with the other familiy and on Christmas morning amongst our immediate family.
My family, which originally came from Minneapolis, lived in Des Moines, Iowa when I was born in 1936. For reasons unclear to me, we moved back to Minneapolis when I was six years old. Since I understand dad had a good job and opportunity to buy into the firm in Des Moines. Apparently my mother was lonely for relatives. They found housing was scarce, and there was some sort of delay in our furniture being delivered.
As a result we ended up staying at my aunt and uncles place for a while, which was the lower half of a two family house. . I had five cousins but I don’t remember how many were there that day since two of them were in the armed services. There were four children in our family and I was the youngest by seven years. My oldest brother was in the Navy and I don’t recall if he was there.
While we stayed there I amused myself with reading stuff like the Joe and Willie cartoon books by Bill Mauldin that were popular with servicemen then and were abundant in the house. But with such a crowded household tensions were getting pretty bad, I believe, and Dad made a deal on the house that we lived in until I was in about the tenth grade in school. It was about six blocks from my uncles.
The Chritsmas I remember
One Christmas Eve sticks in my mind. I don’t remember the exact year but I was about eight years old and it would have been around 1944. The Second World War was still going on. Gasoline was rationed, cigarettes were rationed, sugar was rationed it seems like everything was rationed or controlled. What this has to do with Christmas? Well, with sugar being rationed cakes; cookies and candy were scarcer than people today would believe. Gasoline being rationed meant that people had their holidays near home.
I seem to remember their having an unusual Christmas tree. I have for a long time thought it must have been an aluminum tree but I found that hey were not manufactured until several years later. I think it might have been something called “angel hair” which was made of spun glass.
approximate location of my uncles house
Christmas packages for servicemen
Mothers and wives of servicemen sent packages to husbands, sons and daughters in the services. On Christmas mother sent homemade cookies and candies to my brother. In fact I think we all contributed things to send.
World war 2 in Minnesota
World War 2 in Minnesota was like it was other places with loved ones overseas. Sometimes they made it home for the holidays. Christmas provided lighter moments for some of us.
The Christmas Prank
My aunt and my father both seemed to share a sense of humor not necessarily shared by their spouses. My aunt laughed at postcards that had what my mother would consider inappropriate humor. Like my mother she was French but they had quite different personalities. My mother was extremely Victorian and my aunt could be rather ribald, as I recall. My aunt smoked whereas my mother thought it inappropriate for women to smoke. Whatever the case, practical jokes seemed to be a part of the relationship between date and my aunt.
On this particular Christmas, I remember Dad finding and old wooden box, under the basement stirs. It was dusty and filthy. The box was about 3’ long x 2’ wide and 2’ deep. As I recall. He took a pack of cigarettes and pounded nails all around it on the bottom of the box. I also remember his taking some Divinity candy, which was white sugary and homemade. This he scattered around the bottom of the box. Both the cigarettes and the candy were somewhat scarce because of rationing. What else there was, I don’t recall. He covered the box so it took some effort to open it.
I don’t think anyone was too surprised that Dad did this since such pranks seemed to be a tradition with them. I believe my aunt was expecting a gag but did not know what it was. When she saw the cigarettes at the bottom, she started to tear the wrapping off the pack. And exclaimed “I’m going to be damn sure there are cigarettes in there before I pull all those nails out.”
When my sister got married a few years later, we started having holidays with her and her husband or her in-law. When my father died in the early fifties things were quite different, but tIn the years when I was between seven and twelve-year s old we usually went to my aunt and uncles place which was the lower half of a two family house about six blocks away from our own house in Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota this was the Christmas that seems the most memorable.