“Let’s Remember Pearl Harbor” are words that come into my head when Dec. 7 shows up on my calendar. It was a song with a marching cadence.
Dec. 7, 1941, started like any other day in Melba — a bright and glorious day. But it would be “a day which will live in infamy,” said President Franklin Roosevelt. Early that morning, very unexpectedly, military planes from the Empire of Japan would bomb the Hawaiian Islands and it would be the beginning of World War II for the United States.
George Kirkland was already stationed there in the Navy. Fred Barr and his brother, Riley, and Sonny Kiser were already working for Morrison-Knudsen out on a little place called Wake Island. The Barrs and Kiser were taken prisoners and spent four years in interment camps under unspeakable conditions.
Their reward for living through that would be a check for $10,000 because they made it home. In all, 90 men and women went to the military from Melba during World War II. Four of those were killed in action. They were brothers Lou and Joe Divin and Gerald Slonecker, for whom the American Legion Post was named, and the only Melba-born son, Lyle Tiffany.
The rest of us thought we were suffering — we went without sugar, gasoline and we were rationed clothing and lots of household goods. We had ration books for food and clothing. I saved up my stamps and bought a pair of high-heeled pumps with platform soles for when I got married.
I was 15 on Pearl Harbor Day. The event occurred on Sunday, so the next day at school was very upsetting. When Mr. Scharbach announced the beginning of war to the assembled students, some of the girls were crying and some of the boys left school and went to join a branch of military service.
Things would never be the same. We would become a nation of undaunted patriotism. We went to the dumps in the sagebrush to collect metal for the “scrap drives.” We bought savings bonds which would be redeemable in 10 years at a good rate of interest, and I don’t think we complained about gong without; we just took it for granted.
We adjusted to the lack of sugar and, of all things, laundry soap. After I got married at the end of 1945, I had been hoarding laundry soap for a while. Finally, after the area under my bed was full of boxes of “Rinso” and I could see it on the shelves in the local grocery store, I decided that I wouldn’t have to live that way anymore.
Having lived through a period of doing without and adjusting to being able to buy anything you could afford, it can change your way of looking at things.
Seeing Dec. 7 on the calendar probably doesn’t do anything to people who are under 60 years of age, but to us really old people it gives you a chill of what was to change our lives forever.