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Tab's Journal
Tab's Journal
January 21, 2016

Driving through this weekend's storm

Okay, so there's a storm coming up the east coast. Some are calling it a nor'easter, but it's not coming from the northeast. Anyway...

I live in northern New England and have dealt with driving in snow my whole life (including some very, very, nasty storms). But for people who encounter it rarely, as might be the case with this upcoming storm, I can offer some advice.

To keep you safe:

1) Don't drive unless you have to. Many people have to, and I recognize that. But if there's any way you can camp out, do so. I won't get into tricks about power outages or stuff. That's a separate issue.

2) If you need to shovel out your car, keep the tailpipe clear. Every year or so we hear a tragic story of someone warming up their car with their kid in it, but not shoveling out the tailpipe, and inevitably someone dies of carbon monoxide poisoning (like the kid from 2 years ago waiting while his dad shoveled out the car).

3) Drive VERY slowly - at least, keep about double the response time (braking distance, etc.) you normally have.

4) Your SUV does not make you invulnerable. The opposite of Johnny Cash's gun song, it won't get you into trouble (that's your problem) but it'll help get you out. I can't tell you how many times I've gone up the highway in a storm and have been passed by SUV's or pickups (SUV's seem to be worse) only to find them two miles up the road off in a snowbank. 4WD doesn't make up for safe driving.

5) Sometimes your danger is more from other cars, even if you're the safest driver around. I won't do any sudden maneuvers (like move into traffic), even if I normally might, because the person coming down the road might slam on the brakes and spin out, causing an accident. If you can't move quickly and safely, there's no reason to suspect the other person could either.

6) Don't underestimate snow drifts. If you drive down the middle of the road and your wheels on one side catch a drift, you can still spin out.

7) Although many cars are front-wheel drive, not all are, and rear-wheel drives are more likely to spin out. Also, particularly in the southern states, there's probably more bald tires than you would find further north; combine that with people having not much experience with driving in snow, and you have a recipe for an accident. Not that everyone has that problem, but you only need one to make your personal life miserable. And it's not you, it's them.

8) Try to brake BEFORE a snowcovered area. Often there's clear roads, and then a little patch of snow, then more clear roads. People tend to brake on the snowpatch, which is actually the worst place to do it. Brake before the snowpatch. Do not have your car do anything tricky (turn, brake, etc.) on the patch if you can do it before. This is also very true of road ends (stop signs or red lights). Often there's snow there and people who wait to brake when they might normally might find themselves sailing past the stop sign into oncoming traffic.

9) Changing lanes can be very dangerous. You can't just swing out to the left (or right) when there's a strip of snow down the middle of the lane (or across all lanes). The speed and/or braking, combined with the lateral movement can easily send you down the snowbank (and if you think being up a snowbank sucks, try being down). In a bad storm, it might easily take me a quarter mile to change lanes safely.

10) That said, hitting a snowbank is usually better than hitting another car. Hopefully all you'll need is a tow out.

11) Keep your car gassed up; not only does this provide coverage if you get stuck, but it also helps protect the tank (reason: an empty tank can form condensation, eventually rusting out the tank. It's not a major problem for the occasional storm, but it's one less thing to have to worry about).

12) Every move, even if you've done it on dry roads a million times before, needs to be done much more slowly and deliberately that you would in dry weather.

If even one of these helps one person, it will have been worth it. Stay safe and warm.

January 21, 2016

Two injured in Missouri by new large prime number

Unsuspecting tourists found themselves at the receiving end of a large number, when a Mr. and Mrs. Mersenne inadvertently tripped over a previous undiscovered prime number in Missouri.

"We didn't know there was such a thing," Mr. Mersenne claimed. "We knew there were large numbers around, but we never expected to have to deal with one."

The prime in question, basically 2 gazillion digits, was unnoticed until researchers at the University of Missouri uncovered it, barely covered by the dust from the previous prime. As has been reported, there's been no injuries related to the previous prime, but the Missouri state government has applied for Federal Emergency Management assistance in this case, due in part to the magnitude, and the unexpectedness of such a large number in Missouri, a state not normally known for its digital acumen.

The disposition of the number is yet to be decided. Unofficially, the state government is holding out hope for another prime to be discovered. "We don't think we can sustain the tourist attraction", a representative said, but noted that they were hoping to mine additional primes. No word yet as to whether additional primes were in the works, but as he noted, "We wouldn't say no if Kansas could get the next number."
December 25, 2015

Every few years I post this up, to keep the historical record alive. My mother wrote this.

May you all be well and let our history not be forgotten.

This is an account, written by my mother, of her memories as a child during WWII. She wrote it at the request of my brother. I asked her for permission to put it here. She was reluctant because she thought no one would be interested, and maybe the writing wasn't that great. I disagree. The writing has the feel of authenticity, and I've only corrected a few typos. I did, however, redact some names, because some of those people are still alive, and she was uncomfortable should one of their children stumble upon it.

The point of her feeling no one would be interested is, in and of itself, interesting. I had been reading of the 1918 flu, where we were stacking bodies all over the place and everyone wore masks in public and yet, no one in my generation (I'm mid-40's - older now) had heard of it. It killed 20 million people. It came on the heels of WWI and was so devastating and since everyone went through it that basically no one talked about it. The problem was that subsequent generations didn't learn about it. It was sort of the "forgotten flu".

My mother's experiences in WWII (as a child) are certainly not unique; in fact, they are probably fairly unremarkable, but so few people write about the little things that I found it interesting. I hope you will too.

If you like it, and want to K or R it, maybe that will help someone else learn a little bit of our history too.

I might take the responses (if any) and send them on to her. She'd like that.


Recent interest in the Second World War spurred on by the popularity of the movie, ‘War’, based on the book, ‘The War’ by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns occasioned some conversations with a couple of you regarding those times. World War II was a defining period of my generation, as well as my life as a child and most definitely in Mort’s life (my father). It is because I wish he had spoken more of his time in the War that I have decided to put down my own memories of those years for they have never left my mind.

Now you will instantly realize that I cannot pretend to be a writer or to have the narrative skills or recording education of some of you. Rather, these are just some memories which may well be imperfect – certainly there are gaps and, I assume, items forgotten completely – but, which I decided to record – as much for me as for you – before I forget it all.

Keeping in mind that I was not in the War - but simply lived during war time.
Those events which I do remember are mundane – we were not bombed, we weren’t starving or poor, we didn’t lose our homes nor were there tragedies in our family but, there were adjustments to our lives, fear and occasional prejudice. And you might feel that they are rather superficially presented. However – I wanted to keep these short and do not wish to be over-dramatic or excessively emotional nor do I have the ability to give expression to these feelings.

Hopefully, when you read the many books and view the various movies, you will remember that those at home also lived and breathed this war even though in a fairly colorless way. While I am accompanying this with the book, ‘The War’, I have purposely not read it myself because I didn’t want to absorb something as a memory which is truly not my own.

Note that I was 8 when the war began for us in America and my future husband was already in the Army.

Children often misinterpret events - be that as it may - here are some of those memories -


Dec 7, 1941 - I was 8 ½ years old and Billy - almost 7. The radio was playing music,
with Dad doing his favorite thing, standing on a stool painting the kitchen ceiling while whistling.

When we heard a thud and yell, Billy and I ran to the kitchen only to find Dad on the floor, step-stool overturned and white paint splattered everywhere. Dad simply said – “My God – we’re at War “ This picture is burned in my mind.

I don’t believe I ever heard the word, War, before except as a card game. Billy and I didn’t quite understand. Then Dad said ‘The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor’. That was even more obscure – who or what were the Japs and where is Pearl Harbor? I remember being totally confused. However, while we helped Dad and Mom clean up the spills, Billy and I listened to their conversation and slowly began to understand. We kept radio tuned to the news – by the end of the day I was very frightened. I believe it was the first time I had experienced fear – it was and still is quite palpable when I think of it.

Dad was not considered a candidate for the draft at that time being too old at age 37 as well as married, with children. The criteria for the Draft did become looser as the War continued but he fell into a lucky slot having been too young for the First World War and now, apparently, too old for the Second. Dad had three brothers – two older and one younger. Besides being overage for the Service, Fred, the eldest, was of dubious health and John, the next, had been in the Army during WW I . George, the youngest, had extremely poor eyesight so Dad’s brothers were safe.

Those of his friends who were unattached were not so fortunate. I especially remember Emerick, Dad’s close friend, who, because of his single status, was taken early. It is also possible that he actually enlisted as so many others did. I really don’t know.

Our street, Overbrook Place, was about 5 long city blocks with 5 – 8 houses on each side,
bracketed by woods at either end – sort of self contained. As the War progressed were one of the few homes on the street without an immediate family member in the Service.

We were lucky.


Once a month we stood in line in Saint Anastacia’s Elementary School – a long line – Mother patiently, I less so and holding her hand, while she held her papers. This was the school in which I attended classes during the week. This time, however, we were there for food – or, at least, coupons for those foods needed for the ‘Boy’s Over There‘ and thus rationed to us. We received coupons for items such as butter, meat, sugar, milk etc. for the month according to the size and ages of the family.

So many coupons for meat, so many for butter, milk, sugar and, truthfully, I forget what else; there would be no more until the next month. When writing a shopping list – the amount of Ration Coupons on hand was always the deciding factor. Special events were carefully weighed as to importance, was it worth going the rest of the month without meat, to have Roast Beef that weekend? And woe to the Birthday girl (as it once happened to my cousin, Jeanne) if we ran out of sugar coupons just when a Birthday Cake needed to be made.

Mother quickly learned to improvise – I don’t know what was in some of the faux meat suppers we had but we learned not to question. Hash became a staple – steak or roast meats, a special treat. And, of course, no food was thrown out; left-overs always eaten.

Butter disappeared completely after awhile – no more butter coupons and no more butter. That’s when I first encountered Oleo – a clear plastic bag of thick, white, squishy stuff with
a yellow capsule in the middle. It was my chore to squeeze the bag to soften its contents and break the capsule until the yellow oozed out and then to knead the bag over and over again to distribute the color somewhat evenly so that eventually the material inside looked like butter. Turning Oleo yellow – no matter how uneven the color – didn’t make it taste any more like butter but somehow made it more acceptable.

When you eat something daily over a long time you accept its taste and forget what the original was like. After the War, when I finally had real butter again, it seemed too creamy, too rich. Perhaps that is why I really don’t mind the taste of margarine today. I do sometimes wonder if all that Oleo, which I assume had lots of trans-fat, is the cause of the high cholesterol in so many of us oldsters now.


We lived in Queens, a Borough of New York City, which everyone said that was particularly vulnerable to being bombed. After all, NYC and Washington DC were considered most likely to be the targets of air raids and Manhattan was narrow and – we
were right there – right next to it.

Each street or section in town had a designated Air Raid Warden – ours was Mr. Aspinol, a short, rotund, gruff sounding but very nice gentleman who had a loud belly laugh and always smoked a cigar. He and his wife lived across the street and down two houses from our house.

Every house was required to have black-out shades on all windows drawn every night and to keep their lights low lest some should show through the shades. No outdoor lights were allowed. Christmases were very dark indeed. Mr. Aspinol would patrol the streets at night looking for light leaks.

Periodically the Fire House siren would blow. This siren was used for fires and for air raids. I think the wavering one was for fire and the steady alarm meant, RAID. However, the moment the siren started (usually at night) we would all stop and listen to see which it was and if we could relax or should start to scan the sky. If it was an air raid warning, all house and street lights immediately went out, with the shades drawn and double checked for leaks. The sky would be crisscrossed by search lights looking for planes in every direction. I can still see them roaming the sky.

With lights out, Billy and I would peer out the window wondering if there would be planes this time, what they would look like and where the bombs would fall. We had a rule in the house that if we saw one plane or heard one boom, no matter how far away, we would all go to the basement. Fortunately it never happened, nevertheless we were both fascinated and extremely frightened!

Mr. Aspinol would strut up and down the street without his cigar but wearing a hard hat of some sort. In the house we would sit in the dark, sometimes stories would be told or, if the holidays, some singing would take place – but mostly I would curl up against my Dad while he reassured us with ‘Oh it is just a drill’ or a ‘False alarm’. I didn’t believe him but it was comforting to hear the words.

Occasionally we could hear Mr. Aspinol call out to a house to fix a shade or turn off a light – he was so loud that I always wondered if the planes could hear him. Once I was the object of one of his yells. After a few years, I had become used to these events and accepted that most of them were indeed drills. During one of these drill/raids I lit a candle in my bedroom to do some school work – assuming the shades were properly drawn as Billy and I were responsible for drawing our own shades in our rooms – when
I heard a roar from the street – “Jeanne, turn out that light before you get us all bombed”! You can bet I blew that candle out immediately. It was mortifying because now the whole street knew and I would be teased the next day – and I was.

I don’t know how many of these events were simply drills or how many were indeed triggered by planes over our air space nor do I truly know how long they lasted. It felt like an eternity and I was frightened every single time. The relief was immense when the ‘all clear’ siren blew.

To this day, whenever I hear a siren, I remember those times.


Almost every kid on the street had a red wagon but, when it was collection time, we used my brother Billy’s for his was newer, just a little wider and the wheels less squeaky.

Weekly, 5 or 6 of us would collect items needed to help ‘The War Effort’. Since it was his wagon, Billy would stay with the wagon and keep it organized while the rest of us went to the houses on our street.

Silver foil from cigarette packs was extremely important and households would save theirs. It was a testament to how prevalent smoking was in those days that every house would have a high stack of the foil ready for us to wad into balls of a specific size. We believed that the silver was used to make the bullets – and we thought that each bullet fired was made out of our silver. We liked that idea.

Cooking Grease we knew was sent to the munitions plants to make explosives. The grease was saved in cans, many of which were as sticky and greasy on the outside as well as on the inside. We needed to be most careful to keep the grease containers separate from the foil. Soon, as households learned to be more efficient at saving the stuff, the volume increased and it became impossible to keep the items separate. So we recruited Big Willy’s wagon. Big Willy lived down the street from us and was so called because he was – well- somewhat overweight whereas my brother Bill was called Billy Bones because he was – well - so skinny.

Thereafter, Billy would pull his wagon with the foil – followed by Big Willy with his wagon of grease and the rest of us would troop in and out of the houses. We collectors also split up into Foil and Grease for it wouldn’t do to have sticky greasy hands on the foil. I was Foil. We had quite an operation going for the duration of the War advised by Mr. Aspinol, the Air Raid Warden for our street.

All collections were taken to the Little Neck Fire House where they always praised us, which made us very proud of our work for we were helping the ‘Boys.’ It was such a good feeling!


Rubber was definitely in short supply in the States. People patched and re-patched their car and bicycle tires praying that the patches would hold. We didn’t own a car but I remember my Uncle Walter having to wait for a couple months to replace a tire. Some neighbors put their cars up for the duration because they couldn’t get specific sizes.

I didn’t have a bicycle – neither did Billy. My best friend Barbara had one – it was a blue, girls Schwinn with huge balloon tires and a white basket in front. I was completely envious and begged and begged for years for a bike, even promising to run errands, go to the food and meat stores, anything in order to have one. But Dad felt a bike was too expensive at that time because of the scarcity of the rubber– truly I felt unfairly deprived.

Then one Christmas morning, as I came down the stairs, I noted the few gifts under the tree, fewer than usual. However there in the corner, were two bikes – a blue girl’s bike and a red boy’s bike. I stared at them and then began to sulk – it wasn’t the bike I imagined – the tires were very, very thin. I felt that it wasn’t a good bike, the tires would shred, I would be teased etc. Billy, on the other hand was thrilled – he didn’t care if the tires were thin or fat – this was a bike – he had a bike of his own !!!!! But, I, brat that I was, declared that I’d rather not have a bike then to have one with thin tires.

Dad was angry and walked out of the room. He must have been anticipating my happiness and was stunned and angry by my reaction. But Mom sat down with me and told me that they weren’t making bicycles with fat tires anymore because the rubber was needed ‘over there’. She said that all bikes would now have thin tires which actually were lighter and easier to pedal and therefore, faster. The clincher however was that I would be the first one on Overbrook Place to have one and that having thin tires helps the war effort.

In those days we children were all susceptible to patriotic bribery.


“A well fed soldier is a strong fighter”, ‘Help the boys – grow your own’, ‘The more you grow at home – the more there is for our boys’. Except for the first one, I can’t put quotes around these sayings but that is the gist of what I heard over and over again on the radio and in the papers.

Thus – Victory Gardens were born.
Fresh and even canned vegetables were frequently scarce so everyone took a patch of their backyards – some larger than others – and dug, hoed and seeded. Like city farmers they tended and worried over each plant. Gossip took a back seat to queries about the status of one’s tomatoes and the War.

We had a Victory Garden – it seemed quite large to me at the time but looking at the yard as an adult I guess it was pretty small. I do remember peas, tomatoes, lettuce and green beans. Don’t remember the ubiquitous zucchini or cucumbers – or corn. I think if we did corn I would remember those tall stalks.

Neither Mother nor Dad really liked gardening so ours was tended haphazardly. In fact, Mom felt that fresh vegetables were too much work – she was very much an ‘out of the can’ cook. However, Mrs. Tichachek, who lived next door to us, loved to garden. She often planted flowers against the side of our house so she could see and enjoy them when looking out her kitchen window.

Mrs. Tichachek (that’s all I ever called her) had corn with tall, tall stalks and lots of veggies, all of which thrived under her thumb. She would tend our little patch for us at times and, in return, she took some of the produce which she didn’t have room for in her own Victory patch. I don’t know if there was a formal agreement or just a mutual understanding between her and my folks. I enjoyed working with her at times which may have led to my having a vegetable garden of my own for awhile when we had our own home.

One of the first things which changed at our house when the War ended and the market shelves were fully stocked again, was the garden. It was raked over, seeded and full of green grass fairly quickly – and the canned vegetables presided on our shelves once again. Mrs. Tichacheck kept her garden for many years afterwards.


Dad’s closest friend was Emerick. I really don’t know when or how they met or even his last name, but he frequently visited us arriving in some sort of convertible car with a rumble seat.

About Dad’s height, he was dapper with a smile which always crept up the side of his face. One of my favorite pictures is of Dad and Emerick clad in jackets, ties and knickers, leaning on canes, Emerick with a beret and Dad with a cap, posing against a rail on some Boardwalk. Two dandies on top of the world!

Emerick would always arrive with a Hershey Bar for Billy and me. He was full of jokes and laughter – his hugs were all encompassing. I particularly remember the last time I saw him. He was visiting when I was sick with something or other. Emerick sat on my bed – told some stories, made me laugh and slipped me an extra Hershey Bar – I was in Heaven !! But he was there as a farewell because he was going into the army – to war. He made light of it – said he was going to see if they had Hershey Bars in Europe and if they were as good as ours here.

One day my folks were particularly quiet during dinner – Dad especially. I thought that there would be another Gold Star in a window on the street. They didn’t say much and I didn’t ask. Immediately after dinner Dad went to the basement where he frequently spent hours at his workbench fixing, repairing, building or merely tinkering. When there, he always played his records (they were 78s then) mostly Big Band etc. This time however, he kept playing ‘Melancholy Baby’ over and over again and I couldn’t hear any tinkering.

I went down and found him just sitting – doing nothing – with a big tear on his cheek. When I asked who it was (expecting to hear a neighbor’s name), he told me that Emerick was killed in Europe and then he hugged me tightly and cried. I remember feeling extremely sad but don’t know if it was for Emerick or Dad. For a long time afterwards, whenever Dad worked at the bench, he played Melancholy Baby.

That was the only time I ever saw him cry and, to this day, whenever I hear that tune I choke up.


Two features, a cartoon, a serial and the news – all for 25 cents. On Saturday’s we often walked to the movies (about a mile), many with little brothers and sisters in tow. The afternoon would start with a feature movie followed by a cartoon, then the News and ending with another feature movie or a serial (I really do remember the Perils of Pauline) – an entire afternoon’s worth.

The News, which I think was called Movie Tone – or something like that - featured the War. It started with a Trumpet announcement, the tune of which I can almost recall but not quite. Anyway – it was a distinctive musical announcement followed by a sonorous, deep voice declaring ‘This is Movie Tone for the Week’, or words to that effect. The screen would fill with scenes of soldiers running, cannons booming and prisoners marching with hands up – in that funny jerky walk/run that movies had in those days - along with announcements of names of towns and numbers. The scenes were at times fuzzy and confusing, with places whose names I had never heard before. I do not remember seeing bodies or blood (of course this was in black and white). It was here, though, that the War did seem most real to me though still vague. And honestly – while walking home – I remember my friends and I discussing the ending of the serial – not the war pictures. And yet, they must have made an impression because I still see them in my mind’s eye and hear the trumpets and the tone of the Voice Over.

On the other hand, my folks and other Adults marveled that they could see the actual fighting and would go to the Movies just to see the News, after all, there was no TV in those days. I am not sure what the time lag from the recording of the event to the showing in local movies was but it was amazing to them. One neighbor told me she went with the hope that she would hear about the area her Son was in. She looked at each soldier for the face of her Son which she admitted was probably in vain – but still she went and searched.

It never occurred to us that some day we would be able to sit in our living rooms and watch a war in real time.


I especially remember J___, a short boy with really red hair whose nickname was ‘R___’, hurling those words in my face one day. J___’s father had been killed during D Day and he had been out of school for about a week. On his return I went to say something to him on the playground - when, with tears in his eyes, he yelled “Get away from me – your people killed my Father – you dirty Kraut’ I was stunned and humiliated and started to cry – the Nuns came and took us both away from the playground. I don’t know what they said to J___ but they tried to have me understand what he was going through and that I should forgive him for his words. He didn’t talk to me again and I never did actually forgive him.

The kids pretty much shunned me that day – all except for Mary Mifkovick – my friend.
I have always been grateful to her for standing with me – but, to my regret, I don’t think I ever thanked her for it.

It was not a good time to be German or to be of German heritage. My last name at the time was A____ – a good German (actually Austrian) name. I was often teased or abraded for it during the war. It didn’t matter that it was my Grandparents who came over from Germany or that my parents and I were born here. My Grandparents and Parents were always careful not to speak German in public; my Brother and I were not taught the German language – not even at home, for fear that we would speak it outside and we were frequently cautioned to be careful when talking with strangers. We were acutely aware of public feeling and took great pains to hide any hint of German-ness. There was no rock throwing or burning of Swastikas in our area but some of my friends were friends no longer –my Grandmother lost her baby-sitting job, the German Deli went out of business and the old gentleman (Mr. Heinz) one street over had to close his tailoring shop because of loss of customers.

I was stunned by J___’s invective – despite what the Nuns said about his grief over his Father’s death - I didn’t understand what it had to do with me. Neither I nor my family did this to him. It took a long while for me to connect my heavily accented Grandparents with R___ – but gradually I understood and became very cautious with people.


Towards the end of the war there appeared a young man, rather nice looking I believe, who began walking our streets. He walked up and down the street with a rather blank look on his face, never smiling, never greeting anyone nor acknowledging a greeting. His walk was sluggish and halting. I didn’t know who he was but was somewhat frightened by him for he looked so odd and forbidding.

The word was that this man lived a few blocks over with his Mother and was - “Shelled Shocked you know – “. This was always whispered. According to the gossip, he never slept and spent all day walking up and down the streets of Douglaston. It was said he was hit by a shell in Italy and that he hasn’t been right ever since. It was also said that he had horrible scars all over his body and couldn’t see out of one eye.

I don’t know how much was true – but there is no denying his strange countenance - then, suddenly he was gone, gone as quickly as he had appeared. Nobody seemed to know what happened to him.

Probably, these days he would have had a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and been treated with drugs and psychotherapy but at that time then it was just accepted;
an unfortunate consequence of war.

To me, not being a reader of the papers at that age or a listener of the radio except for the stories like Green Hornet and the Shadow, he had become my daily reminder of the War – and, in a strange way – I missed seeing him.


There were approximately 50 homes on our street most of which had a family member in the service.

Periodically a home would display a Gold Star in its window which usually became obvious to us kids as we went on our collection rounds. I always made a point to tell my folks of the new Star. Sometimes they were already aware, other times surprised, but always saddened.

I knew this meant that someone, a son or a husband, had been killed. Neighbors would gather at the house offering help, support, whatever was needed. Commonly the living room would have lots of framed pictures of a young lad or an older gentleman in uniform. Sometimes I knew the boy – sometimes only the family. Occasionally collections were taken up to assist the family with some financial difficulty (I was never privy to the exact circumstances) especially if a husband was lost. I kept a small jar of nickels which I would draw from when a collection came around – it made me feel part of something bigger – I am not sure what – but somehow, more grown up.

We kids always respected a Gold Star house and family and never ran through their back yard or played loudly in front. Nobody chalked their sidewalk for hop-scotch or used their tree for hide & seek. Their homes were off limits at Halloween – it was as if the family itself was hallowed.

Truthfully, while I knew what these Gold Stars meant, I didn’t, at my young age particularly understand or appreciate the depth of anguish and loss they must have been experiencing. I had yet to experience loss in my family except for two Grandparents whom I didn’t see very often and to whom I was not particularly close. Now that I have had a husband and children of my own and have experienced deep personal loss, I can better understand their grief and the resultant heightening of the fears of the neighbors.

Gold Star Mothers were and highly esteemed – they had paid a high price for Victory. By the end of the war there were 8 windows that I remember with Gold Stars on Overbrook.


And then there were the rumors. . .

U-Boats were off the Long Island Shore, U-Boats were in the East River; a major raid was occurring on the weekend, in 2 days, that night; Germans were parachuting on Manhattan, the end of the Island, New Jersey; we had surrendered in France, Italy, Germany.

And the persistent rumors of spies among us – most notably Mrs. N’s____ husband, K___. He worked as a line man for the electric company but his hobby was as an Amateur Ham Radio Operator – using Morse Code- if I remember correctly. It was this which kept everyone suspicious, that plus the fact that he was visited occasionally by some men in uniform. I’m not sure who they were or what the uniforms were for they usually came when I was in school. However, his wife told us, ‘in strictest confidence’ that they were from the Government checking to see if K___ had ‘anything to report’. I never did find out what he actually did or what uniforms they wore for he never spoke of it. His Daughter, N____ (an absolutely beautiful girl – about 4 years older than I) was particularly shunned and taunted. She had a rough time, even after the War ended because of the unresolved suspicions.

Fragments of other rumors keep popping in and out of my head – as fast as these rumors
themselves lasted - but I can’t seem to latch on to them.

But they did, at times, frighten us because they ‘could be true’ yes????


There are particles of remembrances which I cannot flesh out, such as gas rationing.
I do recall that it was difficult to get gas but, not having a car, it didn’t impact us much.

And, surprisingly, though I have been trying to bring some forth (for I can’t believe they didn’t occur) I have no memories of any discussion of the War as part of school classes. Our school, Saint Anastacia, was a Grades 1 through 8 Catholic Elementary School contained in eight simple classrooms. Maybe we just stuck to the ABCs. - except for the Air Raid Drills when we crouched under our desks.

Posters: There were posters everywhere – big ones with pictures of Uncle Sam in red, white and blue with a goatee beard – pointing his finger straight at me –“Uncle Sam Needs You”. Another, of a strong looking woman, a kerchief holding her hair back, rolling up her sleeve and flexing her elbow to show an impressive, feminine Biceps – Rosie the Riveter – I don’t quite remember the exact words – something about
‘We can get the job done’ – but I remember the picture vividly. She impressed me more than Uncle Sam did. I do recall thinking that I wanted to be a riveter if the War was still going on when I was old enough.

Christmas: Each winter, Billy and I worried that Santa wouldn’t get to our house because of the War and each year (as long as we believed) we were amazed when he actually made it. I thought he was so fearless to brave the German Air Force to come to us at Christmas. But – the most exciting time came the first Xmas after the War’s end when, after years of Holiday darkness, all homes were brightly and colorfully lit. On tepid evenings we would walk around and revel in the lights and cheerfulness of it all. It was like a celebration of peace. I still enjoy driving around and looking at the brightly lit Holiday homes.


So there you have it – an ordinary life in extraordinary times.

Perhaps you have gained some understanding of how simple, small things
can impact the most unimportant of lives.

As I initially indicated I have not read the book which precipitated this interest within you because I did not want to contaminate my own memory. However, at this time distance and during this exercise, one thing has become evident to me --

Memory is an imperfect means of communication.

Therefore, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these stories – but they are, pure and simply, my war time memories.

May you always know peace.

December 9, 2015

On trying to believe Trump Jumped the Shark

Note: "Jumped the Shark" is a euphamism meaning that you've gone too far and passed the point of no return into mediocrity.

This article is mainly that Trump has been considered to have "jumped the shark" on a number occasions, but he keeps ratcheting up the ante and disproving media predictions.

This year:

07/09 - Has Trump Finally Jumped the Shark?
But by Thursday afternoon Trump appeared to have jumped the shark of his own self-indulgence, thanks to his inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

07/20 - Bill Kristol Flip-Flops On Donald Trump: "He's Dead To Me"
I think it's one thing, he was a controversial character who said some useful things, I think, and brought some people into the Republican tent. But he jumped the shark yesterday. He's dead to me.

08/09 - Has Donald Trump finally gone too far with 'menstruation' attack?
But Donald Trump might have finally jumped the shark with his recent comments about Fox News's Megyn Kelly.

09/18 - Might as well butter him, Trump is toast
Donald Trump has jumped the shark. TV shows can reach a point when they begin to get stale and have to rely on gimmicks, becoming a virtual parody of themselves or “jumping the shark” to try to stave off the inevitable decline. “I think Mr. Trump is a wonderful entertainer,” Carly Fiorina said during the Republican presidential candidate debate on Wednesday night.

11/03- The GOP primary jumped the shark: How Republicans’ debate freakout revealed them for the babies they are
We’ve all seen it happen. Bite into an apple then leave it on the counter for a few minutes and the exposed fruit appears to rot. So it went with the Republican candidates during last week’s CNBC debate. The epistemically closed conservative bubble was once again breached on live television, and the GOP field is acting like whiny diaper babies in the aftermath of the telecast, not because the questions were unfair but because their ludicrous ideas were exposed to the air.

12/07 - Commentary: Will Trump ever jump the shark?
Given the above, if there is a group that is hopeful that Trump will jump the shark, it’s the newly hand-wringing Republican establishment. They loved him as a “birther,” but now not so much. Initially, they were convinced that Trump would quickly lose interest, lose his base, or just miss building another T-Tower. But to their surprise and consternation, he has led in the polls, week after week, month after month. His lack of civility and decorum, even his crudeness (“I’d kick the s*** outta ISIS”), seem only to endear him to Republican voters.

12/08 - Yes, Donald Trump has Jumped the Shark. Will Republicans Do the Same?
Jumping the shark will have one of two effects. It will either wake people up to the lunacy of the Trump campaign and allow us to put in a proper representative of the Republican party to defeat Hillary Clinton or it will ensure that Hillary Clinton is our next President. Even if you are one who would love for all Muslims to be halted from entering, you must understand that the stance is untenable and Trump is 100% guaranteed to lose in the general election if he is the nominee. It won’t even be close. Democrats hate him. Independents will not stand for it. Many Republicans, even hardline conservatives such as me, will view Clinton as the lesser of two evils.

I confess to thinking he might have tipped the balance last night - maybe he did - but we've been here before. You what it reminds me of? America's gun issue, and another candidate way back 75 years ago. You think you reach the breaking point, but all we do is take it to the next level of atrocity and regularity. I don't think we can risk being complacent. Don't get me wrong - I hope he doesn't get close to Pennsyvania Ave - but lots of people, say, in Germany pre-WWII, though leaders wouldn't go as far as they did either. "First they came for...".

December 19, 2012

In their alternative universe, the solution is getting rid of gun-free school zones

A letter in the paper this morning was yet another rendition of a meme I've seen floating around the last few days on the interwebs, which puts forth the argument that the solution to school violence is to get rid of gun-free school zones.

The "thinking" is that Lanza was able to do what he did because he walked into school where he would not meet any opposing force. If everyone is packing - teachers, staff, maybe even kids - then someone like Lanza would never have gotten as far as he did.

I'm pretty sure I would not want my first grader in a school where everyone is pulling guns. You can argue that he'd be dead because there was no opposition, but I don't see that multiple people with semi-automatics and poorly aimed pistols shooting bullets in all directions is safer.

Lanza managed the damage he did not because he was unopposed but because he had weapons capable of shooting 45 rounds a minute or whatever it is.

The argument extended to say that "not very long ago" kids went hunting before school and left their guns and rifles in the car during class and there was no gun violence. What that argument extension leaves out is that no one was packing assault rifles, and likely hadn't been inculcated by Call of Duty video games and prepper parents giving access to assault rifles to mentally disturbed kids. And having a gun in your car doesn't help when you're in the classroom.

Other arguments along this line are that Mexico doesn't allow guns, but it's rife with gun violence (hence proof gun laws don't work) and that Switzerland requires everyone to have a gun and has almost no gun violence. This is cherry picking pure and simple, because there's also Britain where, until recently, even the POLICE only had batons, and there was little gun violence. The difference was that Britain had a gun policy and enforced it.

Any of the westerns you would see (not that movies are always true reflections of reality) have everyone armed. In a shoot-em-up, everyone pulls a gun, and lots of people die. This thinking that everyone having lethal capabilities keeps us safer is the warped alternate reality view that I had come to expect from the Bush era.

I don't want my son to go to a school where everyone is armed. What I want is for him to live in a community where no one has assault weapons in their closet. When nobody's armed, that's when I'll feel safe.

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