War Child: Being a Kid During World War II (part 2)

Article written by: Kim Feldmen
For the first part of this wonderful recollection piece click here

A very visible sign of the war was the small white flags with blue stars which appeared in windows of houses and businesses. Each blue star represented one person from that family or business in the service. I remember one house with three blue-star flags in one window and then one day one of those flags was replaced with a flag containing a gold star. The gold star indicated the person whom that flag represented had been reported as having died. I walked past that particular house on the way to and from school every day, and dreaded seeing any more gold stars. By the end of the war, there were two gold stars in that window.

Recycling papers, glass, cans, etc. is somewhat popular today. In our small cul-de-sac in College Station, Texas, we are the only household which puts out papers every week, and regularly cans and plastics as the bags in our containers fill up. During WWII, recycling was not an optional activity.

Harvey had a large red wagon, which we used to collect all the items to be recycled within a four square block area. We had a regular route and traversed part of it every week. I particularly remember one older lady who put all her papers and magazines to be recycled into a large, heavy square box in her basement. Harvey couldn’t reach down very far into the box, so he would stand on a stool boost me up to the top edge of the box and then I’d drop down inside. We had tied a rope to the stool, so after I was inside the box, Harvey would lower the stool to me. I would pick up the stack of papers and magazines, get up on to the stool, and hand the stack over the top edge of the box to Harvey. Harvey would stack the items into a small box which the two of us together could carry out to the wagon. Writing this now it seems like an awful lot of work, but it was part of our contribution to the “war effort”. It’s easy to wonder why the lady didn’t just get a smaller box; she already had that box, and not many household items came in heavy cardboard boxes during the war. There was a large collection company a couple of miles from our house, and Mom would take the items once or twice a month.

As I recall, the collected items were weighed by group, and we were paid by the pound. Part of the money our family received went toward the gas used and wear on the tires, and Harvey and I were allowed to divide some of the rest with the restriction that we had to buy war stamps with it. War stamps were 25 cents each and were pasted into paper stamp books. One full stamp book could be turned into the government for a war bond which would be valued at $18.75 after ten years. Neither Harvey nor I ever received an allowance, except that during the war each of us got 25 cents a week to buy a war stamp.

A warm memory relates to paper shortages. Christmas and all gift paper was in short supply, and used in large sheets, folded to fit individual items. Instead of sticky plastic tape, we had small paste-on stickers which had to be licked. The stickers didn’t always stick well, so gifts could be opened very carefully, and the paper saved for another use. Harvey and I had favorite pieces of Christmas wrapping paper, which was carefully stored in a large flat box and kept in the attic. When it was time to wrap Christmas gifts, we would try to be the first one into the box, so we could get our favorite pieces to use.

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