Memories of World War II
By Juanita Bray
This story and “A Tyke in Wartime,” by John M. Larsen, also in this issue, are reminiscences of Idaho during World War II when these two authors, who married in 1956, were very young children.
Back when my memories first came into focus, war seemed to be part of everyday life in Boise. There was always talk of “The War,” but when you are so very young, the word is nearly meaningless. I suppose there was an emotion of some sort, as I realized that my parents were worried, but I don’t recall that I had a personal feeling of what it was all about, only that it was there. So when I take you back to the years of World War II, it’s from the perspective of a child who was only eight when it finally ended and just two when it began in Europe. I don’t remember the attack on Pearl Harbor but I definitely remember the day President Roosevelt died, and I remember VJ Day very well.
War was just the way things were, as I had no recollection of how things used to be. It was normal that so many things were rationed, that we went without items I didn’t even know at the time we were going without, and that selections of some commodities were limited, such as toys (always important), candy, and soda pop.
Gowen Field outside Boise was activated during WWII, which made the flyover of various planes commonplace. Airplanes were not as ordinary as they are today, so we often stood in the yard, our hands shading our faces, as we watched many different types of aircraft fly over our house. I’ve asked myself many times if the clear picture I have of seeing tri-winged planes one afternoon is an accurate memory. Bi-winged planes were not that uncommon yet, although I’m reasonably certain they were not used in combat. But tri-winged planes! I can’t erase the picture, so I’ll go with it.
I suppose because of Gowen Field, the authorities were concerned that there could be an air raid, possibly by the Japanese, as we lived closer to the Pacific Coast than to any other area of potential threat, so we had blackout drills. They were pre-arranged for certain times at night when, at the sound of a siren, all houses were to extinguish their lights and cover the windows. As a youngster, it seemed to me more like a game than anything else, although I do remember a sense of foreboding, of waiting for something to happen.