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The Homefront, Then and Now

An Army of Children

Children throughout the country scrounged neighborhoods, alleys, roadsides and fields to find scrap metal of all kinds, old tires, garden hose, bikes and bedsteads. In 1942, Nebraska Camp Fire Girls display their gleanings.
An Army of Children
“To every soldier, sailor and marine who is fighting for my country:
For you there can be no rest, for me there should be no vacation from the part I can play to help you win the war. I therefore solemnly promise to continue to buy United States War Savings Stamps and Bonds to the limit of my ability throughout my summer vacation and until our victory is won.”
There was a line for the student to sign his name. There was also a line to be signed by a witness, I suppose a teacher.

This pledge appeared on the back of each war savings stamp book issued to school children in May of 1942. War savings stamps cost 25 cents each. When you had pasted $18.75 of stamps in a book, you could take it to a bank and receive a War Savings Bond that would be worth $25 in ten years. I remember buying war savings stamps at my grade school on Fridays. But not every week. Twenty-five cents was a lot of money. You could go to a movie for 10 cents if you were under twelve. You could get a Hershey bar for a nickel. A Coke for a dime. Of course both Hershey bars and Cokes were in short supply as almost all of them went to the armed forces.

We were at war! We had been at war almost six months now. And we were losing! The government needed all the help it could get. Everyone needed to do their part, and that included children. When Sis Greggory collects scrap metal, rubber and paper in my novel, Not to be Forgiven, she is only one in an army of children. The Camp Fire Girls were joined by the Boy Scots, Girl Scouts, the High School Victory Corps, the Civil Air Patrol, 4-H Clubs, American Junior Red Cross, neighborhood Victory Clubs….the list is long. Little Orphan Annie of the comics enlisted Junior Commandos, who signed a Junior Commando pledge, and received Junior Commando arm bands to wear as they did war work.

Children collected mature milkweed silk (used to make life vests buoyant), tin foil from gum wrappers and cigarette packages, toothpaste tubes (contained lead). They were the best at scouring alleys, roadsides and fields for scrap metal and rubber. They washed, de-labeled and flattened the family’s tin cans and toted them to collection points. They became Junior Air Raid Wardens.

In agricultural areas, children worked in the fields to harvest crops. In the Platte Valley, school was dismissed to harvest potatoes. Kids helped plant and care for the family Victory Garden, and later helped their mothers can tomatoes and other produce. Twenty million Victory Gardens produced 1/3 to 1/2 of the nation’s produce in 1943.

We were not abused. We were eager to help in any way we could. In return, we learned thrift, a good work ethic, a sense of self-worth, a can-do spirit and a deep love of and respect for our country. I, for one, think we received far more than we gave. Read More 
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