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Where Are The Stars?

Updated on August 29, 2009

It was 1941 and I was nine years old.  My mother and I were living in a rooming house in St Louis Mo and my teacher stood before our class on that day, December 7, and announced that Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor.  Most of us did not know where this place called Pearl Harbor was.  I was just a kid from Arizona and my mother had brought me here because she thought she could find work in the many sewing factories.

We got all of our news about the war from the radio reports and newspapers.  One day my mother told me that we would soon be going back to Phoenix Arizona for she had read that they were hiring many women to work in defense factories.  All the young men of eighteen or older were enlisting in various branches of the service.  I was delighted and soon we were on a Greyhound bus with our meager belongings.

My mother quickly applied for the job that required a person to test and fire the machine-guns that they were building to be fitted onto the planes that they were also building.  I remember how disappointed she was when she was turned down for this position because of the fact that she did not weigh enough to control the firing of the gun.  She was very small, so they offered her the position of bucking rivets because she could crawl into the wings of the planes.  Yes, she became of the many  Rosie the Riveter's. 

We were now living in a seedy motel but it had a small kitchen.  I was use to being on my own most of the time and now my mother was earning a better wage.  The average man working in a wartime plant was paid $54.65 per week, while women were paid about $31.50 per week.  Rationing food and stamps were soon a way of life.

I had started school and each day as I walked back to the motel, I passed in front of several modest houses.  I soon begin to notice that many had little flags hanging inside on the window.  There were small ones with stars and there were some that just had an American Flag.  There was one house that caught my attention, not only for the star flags that were proudly displayed there, but the lady that sat there most days on the porch swing.  She always spoke to me and asked me how school was that day.  One day she asked me if I would like to join her for a glass of lemonade.  This became a habit I looked forward too.   

At first there had been four blue stars hanging on her flag.  Then one day there was a yellow one added.  I did not want to ask her about the flags and stars because my mother had explained to me what they meant and I could see the sadness in her face.

Each blue star symbolized a member of that family was serving in the military---the blue for---hope and pride; the gold for sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom.  All the houses that I passed displayed this patriotic symbol.

In the months that passed and I sat there and enjoyed the company of this lady and her lemonade and sometimes added cookies, she became know to me as Mrs Em as she said all her friends called her that.  Yet, she never talked about her sons to me, she kept the conversation on everyday things and sometimes helping me with my spelling homework for I had told her that my mother worked as a riveter at the aircraft plant and didn't get home till very late---she worked the swing-shift.

It was not long before those four blue stars became four---yellow stars and Mrs Em did not appear on her porch anymore.  One day I just went up to the door and knocked gently to see if she was alright, after all she had been so nice to me.  A neighbor lady seen me and told me that Mrs Em had passed away for in her view there was no need to be there now that she had given the utmost sacrifice by giving her---four sons.

Now! I ask you what has happened to our neighborhood symbols of patriotic pride?  There are many young men and women that are serving in our military.  Yet, the only time you see even a flag is sometimes on FLAG DAY. 

Oh yes, you can go to Washington D.C. and visit the Vietnam Memorial and the sheer number of names is almost overwhelming.  The total number (now 58,260, including 1,200 that are listed as missing.

Add to this visit the Vietnam Veterans Statue: 

Also the sculpture of the Vietnam Women's Memorial it displays two women in uniform tending the wounds of a male soldier while a third women kneels nearby. 

I believe that some wars were and are necessary, and some are not.  I as a parent found that the hardest part is to watch a son or a daughter go off to honor this cause.  I was fortunate that my son and daughter returned.

How wonderful it would be if again we could walk or drive down our streets and see these stars and striped displayed with hope and pride in our windows.  After all not everyone has the means or opportunity to visit Washington D.C. 

I write this for all the Ms. Em's and families of today's world:


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    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Ms Ginn

      This is a bittersweet story that invokes love for country and family. While I was reading this, it felt like you were Mrs Em, only that you talked with a more open heart. Though I'm not an American, I do know the significance of your flag displayng tradition as it seems to be a universal one. You may not be getting what you want these days as far as the flags are concerned, but do know this, you make your country proud! Thanks for sharing another serving of your wonderful storytelling! :D

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Thank you for sharing your memories with us. You have witnessed so much --this is moving and a privilege to read.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 8 years ago from Australia

      Lovely hub.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      Hey Cris, no matter what country you are from, they all had to sacrifice in some manner---and our flags should be displayed proudly ---to say THANK YOU.

      Thank you Teresa, some times we just plain forget those that made that flag wave!

      Jewels, thank you.

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 8 years ago from India

      GN, you have such a lovely way of telling a tale so that your capture the interest of your readers from the very first line. :)

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      Thanks Feline, I can only write what I feel. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States

      Very moving story mom, one that I don't remember you sharing before. Ms. Em would be proud of you.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      Jeri, funny something I read the other day brought back this memory. Love ya.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Wow...My mom was also a welder in the shipyards in Calif.  I was 2 but she told me stories and there were pictures (that disappeared) . I remember when margarine came about...this white rectangle (like cream cheese  shape) with a packet if orange liquid that you mixed with the white stuff...and you had the new modern margarine....

      Yikes I am sure it was lard or crisco....

      Lovely story and am so glad your children returned to you...Thanks for the reminder...oh and I display a few flags dailey...always have I Love the USA very much and am proud of us...G-Ma :O) Hugs

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      G-ma, yes I do remember that (modern margarine) that was in a bag with that little capsule that you mixed into it to make it look like butter and we even thought it tasted like real-butter!

      We should all keep those flags flying high, maybe now more than ever?

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Isn't that the trueth :O) Hugs

    • lafenty profile image

      lafenty 8 years ago from California

      Inspiring and heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      Lafenty thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      sunesra, thank you.

    • Profmaggy profile image

      Profmaggy 8 years ago from Boston MA

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in this evocative way. Truly a wonderful read.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 8 years ago

      Profmaggy thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      Pachuca213 7 years ago

      I really enjoyed the story....It is very sad about the lady who lost all her sons. Very tragic.

      My grandmother was the Lead Welder/Rivetter in Building 13 at El Toro Marine Base located in Irvine Ca during WWII. That is where she met my grandpa and fell in love. She says that those were the best times of her life. And she was getting paid better than the men at the time...she was very proud of herself...They stayed together for almost 65 years until grandpa passed last December. Us ladies are tough and seem to outlive the men don't we? At least thats what grandma says. =) Good Hub!

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 7 years ago

      Pachuca, yes we all pay a big price for FREEDOM. Your grandmother and my Mom paved the way for many of us today and they were tough. My mom used to have a saying "They just don't make men like they use to." because we out live them. I too lived in Calif at that time for 23 years and know the area well.

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