A Tyke in Wartime

What’s This in Our Town?

By John M. Larsen

“John Morris, get in here!”

Just then, I was leaning over and reaching out toward zinnias still in bloom in our garden.  If my memory of this moment is correct, it must have been unusually warm that December 7 in Boise or else the flowers would have been curled and browned from the frost.

My mother called again, “John Morris, get in here! They’ve bombed Pearl Harbor!”

I knew whenever my mother called me by my first and middle names, something was wrong that involved me. But this time I could tell by the tone of her voice it was something serious. I’m sure my six-year-old self would have wondered, “What’s Pearl Harbor?”

Our family had moved to Boise from Montana in 1940 and we were staying at my grandmother’s house while my parents completed the purchase of a ten-acre tract north of Marsing. In 1941, Mother was a college graduate busy at home helping her mom to can fruit and chicken, and to make pickles and salt pork that would get us through the winter.

For refrigeration we used an icehouse stocked with blocks of winter ice cut by my father from a nearby lake and hauled home with a wagon and team. The ice was covered with sawdust for insulation. Throughout the summer, he would dig one block of ice at a time out of the sawdust and put it in the icebox in the kitchen. The icebox was a wooden cabinet with a door on the top for the ice and another door below for the food. The refrigerator had been invented by then but it was expensive.

My mother’s people were from the UK and my father’s family from Denmark. My father was a truck driver for my Uncle Jack and Aunt Alice Edwards, who owned a packing shed, which was a warehouse with railroad access where produce could be processed and shipped to markets nationwide. My dad trucked vegetables from Boise to California, and would bring back oranges.

I hurried inside and joined my mother, sister, and grandmother, who were crowded around the Emerson tube radio, listening to President Roosevelt’s voice as it blared the tragic news: “This day will live in infamy!” The radio played a new recording from a Broadway musical that would become even more popular after the release of the 1943 movie, Best Foot Forward, starring Lucille Ball.

It was the fight song for the Winsocki Military Academy titled, “Buckle Down, Winsocki.” It went, “You can win, Winsocki, if you knuckle down, if you break their necks, if you make them wrecks.”

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John M. Larsen

About John M. Larsen

John M. Larsen came to Idaho in 1940, went to high school in Marsing, and graduated from the College of Idaho. His parents were co-founders the Owyhee County Historical Society and from 1998 to 2018, John was either the society’s president or a board member. He worked for the City of Marsing and later was a consultant for the city until 2018.

One Response to A Tyke in Wartime

  1. Jeannie Eddins - Reply


    Love your hat!

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