Thursday, May 21

Hazard in World War II

December 7, 1941 started like any other Sunday in Hazard. We went to Church down on High Street and then walked downtown to the drug store. The kids all got ice cream, and our father bought the Sunday Courier Journal. Then we walked up Broadway and crossed the bridge to Lyttle Blvd, where we lived in a rented house. Our mother went to the kitchen to work on dinner (Sunday dinner was always the mid-day meal.) my two sisters and I settled down with the funny papers and our father read the rest of the paper.

After a short time, Mother came into the living room and said, "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. I think we are in another war." I can still hear those words as clearly as the day she spoke them. It was the day that everything changed.

I was eight years old and my knowledge of geography was limited, so I asked where Pearl Harbor was. Mother dragged out a world map and pointed out the Hawaiian Islands. She said that there was a big Navy Base there called Pearl Harbor, and that Japanese airplanes had bombed the ships there.

Our parents spent the rest of the day listening to the radio. There were no televisions in those days and radio reception was not good in Hazard because of the mountains. Newspapers usually contained stories a day or more older and newsreels at the movies were weeks, sometimes months, old before we saw them at the Virginia or Family Theater.

In the coming years, we saw young men go off to fight, sugar, meat, and coffee were rationed, gasoline rationing limited most drivers to 3 gallons a week, and supplies of things like soap and shoes were limited. If your tires wore out, you parked your car for the duration.

We bought savings stamps and bonds to help the war effort. My father was one of the organizers of a massive scrap drive that sent a train load of scrap metal off to the steel mills in Pennsylvania. He also served on the board of the OPA, a government program that froze prices at pre-war levels to avoid inflation.

It would be years before Hazard got back to normal, but we learned that we could survive hard times. We were proud of the way everybody pitched in to win the war.

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