I sat across the table from my 80-something-year-old uncle in his impressive Atlanta-area home. “I would have given anything for a piece of chocolate,” he said with a laugh.
We’d spent the last half hour talking about the stateside woes of World War II.
“There was no chocolate?” I asked.
“Not for us,” he said, the twinkle still in his eyes. “I’m sure there was some out there somewhere.”
“And women gave up their nylons so the government could make parachutes.”
“Oh, yeah …” he mused, the memory shining on his remarkably smooth features. “That was something, you know. Some of them drew a line up the back of their legs to make it look like they had stockings on … but, of course, you could tell …”
“What else?” I asked. “Tell me more about the war that you remember.”
“Ration stamps. You know about those, right?”
Yes, I told him, I did …
“We got ration books,” he said. “You used your stamps to purchase items and you could only get so much coffee … sugar … meats … cheese. Once you’d used up your stamps for the month, you were done.”
“So,” I said, “I suppose women had to plan their family meals down to the mouthful.”
My uncle nodded.
“The main family in my novel are a farming family.”
“For them it was different,” he said. “We needed the farmers bad back then.”
“They became the backbone of America.”
“They always were,” he said. “Now, you know about the gasoline?”
I shook my head. “No. What about it?”
“We could only drive thirty-five miles an hour. Gas was rationed so driving slow helped to save gas.”
“Because the soldiers needed it.”
“That’s right.” A painful look crossed his face. “Farmers in five Georgia counties gave up their farmland so the government could build Camp Stewart.” He rested his chin in his hand. “Granddaddy lost thousands of acres.” My uncle’s eyes met mine. “Caused him to have a stroke, you know. And one farmer—because he was black—lost all his land and couldn’t get anyone to sell him so much as an acre with the piddling amount of money Washington gave him.” He took a deep breath. “It was awful.”
“What about blackout curtains?” I asked, taking a sip of the sweet tea I’d poured before I’d begun my interview.
“Pulled them every night. Living so close to the coast, you know, you had to. And we had hooded headlights on our cars so if we had to drive at night the enemy—if they were anchored off the coastline—didn’t see the lights.”
I told him that I had interviewed a friend a few weeks earlier who told me how, when she pulled the curtains each night as a young bride, she’d been so afraid. “I was fine during the day, but terrified at night,” she’d said.
My uncle’s face suddenly brightened and he sat straight. “Now, once a week, we got out of school all day to go work for some of the farmers. They were short of help because all the men were gone and many of the women were working for the government or taking the jobs the men had left behind—working in factories and in stores and banks and such.”
“The main character of my novel is a farmer’s daughter and helps out on weekends but works in a bank during the week. She took one of the soldier’s jobs.”
“Farming was hard work back then,” he said. “Still is, but many of the local farmers only had a plow mule. They didn’t have tractors like they have today. We had some of the German and Italian POWs to help, too, you know.”
“Bulloch County recently located the old POW camp in Statesboro,” I told him.
“The work we were sent out there to do, we did by hand. It was hard work, but we were proud to do it.”
“When you’re fifteen, and you wish you were eighteen so you can go fight the enemy, and they tell you that you can pick tobacco or peas or corn and help the war effort, you’re proud to do it.”
I could see that … “My Aunt Audrey told me that if they did enough work in the field on the hot days, they could go swimming before it got buggy.”
My uncle laughed. “I made a scrapbook back then,” he said. “I still have it. Do you want to look at it?”
I told him I did. He stood slowly and then, slightly hunched, headed toward the back of the house to retrieve the book … leaving me to ponder. What if, I wondered, WWII happened today. What if our young people were told they’d have to give up their Starbucks … their Godiva chocolate … their sports cars … or even their iPhones? What if they were told “We are cutting off Snapchat and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram (and all the others) because we need the cyberspace for the war effort”?
What if our men were called to sudden action? Would they boldly step up to the plate as the young men of WWII did? Or would they bicker and complain about the government telling them what to do with their body?
What if our women were called to do the work of ten men and keep the home fires burning? What if we were called to plan all the meals without the help of McDonalds? Or Chick Fil A? Or stitch clothes for their children out of potato sacks?
What if all the metals used for costume jewelry went to building planes and missiles? Would we willingly give up the bling or would we be so busy demonstrating our rights to wear it or for the poor, poor enemy who might be hurt by it that we miss the point entirely?
These are the questions I asked myself as I waited to flip through a 70-plus-year-old album. From a purely selfless position, could our modern society survive another world war?
I’m not so sure we could … maybe. Maybe there is enough of the human spirit left in us. But I’m not 100% sure.
What do you think?
Eva Marie Everson is the bestselling, multiple award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International, the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, and a frequent presenter at writers conferences across the nation. Her latest book, The One True Love of Alice-Ann (Tyndale Publishers), released in April 2017.
Eva Marie Everson’s Newest Release
Living in rural Georgia in 1941, sixteen-year-old Alice-Ann has her heart set on her brother’s friend Mack; despite their five-year age gap, Alice-Ann knows she can make Mack see her for the woman she’ll become. But when they receive news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Mack decides to enlist, Alice-Ann realizes she must declare her love before he leaves.
Though promising to write, Mack leaves without confirmation that her love is returned. But Alice-Ann is determined to wear the wedding dress her maiden aunt never had a chance to wear—having lost her fiancé in the Great War. As their correspondence continues over the next three years, Mack and Alice-Ann are drawn closer together. But then Mack’s letters cease altogether, leaving Alice-Ann to fear history repeating itself.
Dreading the war will leave her with a beautiful dress and no happily ever after, Alice-Ann fills her days with work and caring for her best friend’s war-torn brother, Carlton. As time passes and their friendship develops into something more, Alice-Ann wonders if she’ll ever be prepared to say good-bye to her one true love and embrace the future God has in store with a newfound love. Or will a sudden call from overseas change everything?