The War Years

My new bike.

The rabbit hutch’s roof is visible behind my new bike.

Every day fewer people personally remember the privations of the world war. The sad part is how long it took those who lived through the war to tell us younger folks about what it was like to live through the chaos of true war. I heard very little about the war until we received these letters from Lucy, along with the ones from Jim, Grace and Louie. Recently some veterans in Rochester have sponsored a monthly series of recollections by veterans, participants, and civilians who experienced the war in person. Listening to these older folks recount their stories moves me deeply.

I experienced the war second-hand. In Lucy’s letter below she talks about rabbit meat sold in the butcher shop. Rabbit was a familiar food. We were a poor family. Meat was a luxury. My mother and grand mother were farm folk. Raising live stock came to them naturally. There weren’t any city ordinances against it, so they raised dozens of rabbits in a shed behind the house. They built cages three deep along one wall. The cages were made of chicken wire, so the waste would drop through to the floor. Mom and Dad used it as garden fertilizer each fall, I assume.

We didn’t play with these rabbits. We ate the meat. Maybe it tasted like chicken. No big deal for me then. Lucy disagreed.

Lucy writes:

You couldn’t drive up to the gas pump and fill up the tank. It was rationed. Everyone had a book of stamps. You had stamps or the attendant would refuse to fill your tank. We did not have self service stations at that time.

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Henry and Melvin Drafted

Melvin in Navy uniform at the farm

Melvin in his Navy uniform

There are a lot of under currents hinted at in this letter. Grace was only ten when war was declared after Pearl Harbor. After reading Jim and Lucy’s letters about the war, this experience seems almost indifferent.

Fanny must have had an incredibly difficult time when, soon after losing her husband, her two sons were drafted and left for the military. The oldest daughter had just left for school in Fargo. Now she was alone on the farm with one young daughter. What a challenge! This gives me a clue as to why my grandmother was such a tough old gal who could handle anything. She had lived through the hard times.

This letter seems short, but the stories between the lines are harrowing.

Grandpa Guy Havelick


Grace writes:

We made the trip to Nebraska in 1941 not the summer of ’40 as I said yesterday. Esther graduated from Hi School in ’41 and turned down a job in Steele so she could go on the trip. She went to school in Fargo in the fall.

War was declared on Dec 7, 1941. I don’t know how soon but I know that Henry + Melvin both got drafted and had to go for induction physicals at the same time so Mom had to take care of all the cattle + everything alone. Luckily …

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