Autobiography of Mary E Wilson (19) – The War – 1941

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Mary E. Wilson was born in England and came to America, to escape from a difficult family situation, in 1925, when she was a young girl. She had many challenges here also, but her bright outlook and disposition, along with her strength and character, helped her survive and find happiness with Archie Wilson. They were married in 1937 and at this point in her autobiography, World War II is upon them and they have two small children to care for.

There was a war going on in Europe at this time. Hitler was really taking over countries, interning Jews and bombing other countries.

Franklin D Roosevelt was our president and when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, we declared war on Japan and Germany. Men were drafted, food was rationed and we were given ration books for everything.

Factories became busy making arms for war and women were quickly hired to produce and work on planes. “Rosie the Riveter” was the nickname for the women working in the war plants.

Archie was not drafted because he was the only draftsman working in the Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing Company. They made tools for the Army so that was considered war work.

We had no car because we lived near a bus route. Archie and my brother Arthur bought bikes.

I went into the hospital to have my second baby. We had planned, if it was a boy, to call him Allan John. During my stay in St. Vincent’s Hospital, my brother Arthur and Archie’s brother David came to see me. They complained about my choice of names for my baby son. they both flipped a coin and after a trip to the Sisters in the hospital, my son became David Arthur.

Mary Jane loved her baby brother. She was a happy three-year-old and the doctor was really helping her. She was so brave about her shots. As she got older she asked her dad to give her shots to get relief. I could never put a needle in her arm even though I practiced on an orange like Dr. Edgar told me.

We planted a “victory garden” on Rudy Murkette’s land in Lordship. We also built a chicken coop and raised chickens. With our garden produce and chickens and eggs we were able to manage, in spite of our limited food supplies, with our ration books.

People were only allowed two gallons of gas if you lived near a bus route and clothing was scarce. Thank God my mother was clever with the needle and was able to make over old clothes.

Archie finished our attic into three rooms and we rented to male war workers which gave us extra money.

My mother rented a large house in Bridgeport and she ran a boarding house for 12 male war workers and one woman.

The factories were busy but the turnover was great because the young men were drafted so quickly.

I used to take the bus with my two children and help my mother in her boarding house. She loved what she was doing and felt very important.

Our tenant, Bill Cleary, was the Air Raid Warden in our district and he was very difficult. He took his job very seriously. We had to have “blackout” curtains and drapes and I was continually reported to Air Raid headquarters because he said I was careless with my curtains.

The tension and insecurity was terrible but our family, thank God, was not affected because we had no one fighting in the war.

I worked with the Red Cross at night and helped in the old people’s hospital.

Tomorrow, we’ll find out what went on between 1942 and 1946. 

Next week, we start a series of letters written in the middle of 1945, while Grandpa is holding down the fort in Trumbull, CT. 

Judy Guion

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