This will not be another fun-times-in-Madison Park story due to the seriousness of the pandemic. The closest thing to our present-day nightmare was as third-graders at J.J. McGilvra when we became aware of World War II. It was a restrictive time, but we did go to school and were able to socialize a few short hours afterwards.
“Blackouts” were nightly. There was no light anywhere: The street lights were out, window shades were pulled, even cars had hoods over their headlights. Rationing was paramount in helping the war movement: powdered milk, Spam, rice or cut up bread with milk and sugar for breakfast, but we were lucky as my grandparents had a farm on Little Finn Hill in Kirkland, so we ate well some of the time.
We were too young to understand what the war was about as we were shielded from the news. There was no TV and when the radio relayed the nightly Lowell Thomas news, the volume was turned down. We couldn’t even overhear what our parents were saying about it, and we rarely saw the daily paper.
Our childish musing was if two countries had such a mad-on for each other, why not settle it — winner take all — in a Monopoly match? Game over, shake hands, that’s it! No one makes big bucks on war toys, right?
The air raid drills were the worst, and the thought of balloons with bombs sent via water currents made us especially panic with the warning: If you see one, don’t touch it!
So how did we manage? We stood in the rain in a three-block line to view a John Wayne war movie. On other Saturdays we loaded up our cap guns and played war in the Canterbury woods. I guess it was our way of dealing with life.
My dad was killed in airplane war maneuvers in California, which was a surreal experience beyond anything we ever knew. Mom and I stressed enormously with that for years upon our return to Madison Park in 1943. Life in my grandfather’s garage was severely confining with both my mom, my aunt and uncle and I having to wake up the grandparents to use their facilities. The folks in the alley struggled as well. There were many locals lost in the war.
Besides war there were other concerns, like catching the measles, chicken pox or the mumps! The worst health issue was during one summer when the beaches closed because of the polio epidemic. Magazines and movie news depicted people living in iron lungs. Not to be able to go swimming and play at Madison Park beach really hit us hard. If you contracted polio, you were separated from your family.
After World War II there was concern that there would be another war involving the atom bomb. Einstein was asked what weapons would be used in the next war. He answered that he didn’t know but the one that followed would be fought with clubs and stones.
Draft notice in hand, I reported to a building on West Marginal Way. After a quick once-over, I was sworn in. Next it was Fort Ord for a total of 10 weeks of basic training. We were offered a chance to go to an above-ground atom bomb site in trenches located a safe distance away with a two-week leave as reward. Those who volunteered were transferred to another unit. The rest us attended several weeks training about the effects of radioactivity. During that period of time, some men went through even more training, which seemed mysterious.
Toward the end of all those weeks of training we were told to report in full field pack at 4 a.m. We had chow and then loaded on buses. Many hours later, we were told to disembark and begin digging holes with placements for two. We were ordered to sit in them and cover our heads with our shelter halves. It was super quiet when suddenly the ground shook a long while moving one direction and then another. I don’t remember any particular noise. A whistle blew, so we loaded back onto the buses and left the desert. No one spoke on the way back to post, but we figured it was an underground detonation. We were examined and blood tested, and that was it!
During the early '60s was the missile race. I worked for a firm that monitored the status of missile sites. One of the sites with a constant problem was the firing order was not numerical. It had been locked in position but kept going out of order. No way this should happen. It took several codes to change it, and it still had issues. Two months into this problem, a newspaper article stated there had been unidentified flying objects over military installations. The question for us, who was scrambling the sites? After resetting several times, we set it to ready standby power off.
Very cryptic, what where “they” trying to tell us? Only the higher ups knew.
Someone is still trying to tell us something. Only the higher ups know.