Fremont County, Iowa

Life during World War II - Part One
by Emily Bengtson

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
March 31, 2014

December 7, 1941, my life was changed forever. I was in the 8th grade in Riverton School. It was a warm afternoon. My brother, George, my sister, Mary Ann, and I were outside playing. George had made us a broad jump and was training us to be athletes. When we went into the house to get a drink, we found Mom crying and Dad in shock.

The next day, Monday the 8th, we went to school where everyone was crying and asking questions. All the students went to the high school study hall and heard the President give his speech on the radio. I will never forget the shockwave that filled the room when the President said on the radio “We are at War!” He went on to tell everyone what had happened at Pearl Harbor.

Life changed quickly. The men teachers enlisted in the service. We were short of teachers so retired teachers came back to work. Everyone teaching had to double up on what they taught so all classes could be covered.

Mrs. Evans was our home economics teacher during the war; although it was not her major. She knew how to sew but cooking was not one of her strong suits. As for me, I had cooked all my life and learned a lot from my grandma. One day she asked me to teach a lesson on making grape jelly and in turn I could skip a sewing project, which was not my favorite activity. So, I stood in front of the class and gave a lesson on jelly making. It was fun and I really enjoyed not sewing!

Mrs. Evans’ husband was a teacher and he enlisted. He was stationed in Wisconsin. She wanted to see him before he went overseas but gas rationing was an issue. So, three of the senior boys pooled their gas rations with hers and they helped drive her to Wisconsin. The Home Economics class had made a box of cookies for her to take to him. When she got there and opened the box, she found her girdle and night clothes. The senior boys had a great time teasing her. Mr. Evans survived the war and later became president of Wayne State College.

To do its part our school had a scrap metal drive. The metal was being used to make bombs. We cleaned up the Riverton area. We went to farms and all-around town plus the ditches that were full of metal and the dumps. The best metal was all the useless farm machinery. The school let us go during school days to pick up metal from the farmers, who helped us load it. Our pile of metal was as high as we could get it and almost a block long. We were so proud to have added our part to the war drive.

The biggest thing I remember about clothes during those years and being a teenager is we could not get silk stockings. The silk was needed for parachutes. So, for the prom, we girls painted dark lines down the back of our legs to make it look like we had on silk stockings.

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