I hurried home from the theater Sunday and hunkered down, along with an estimated 18.7 million other folks, to re-live (in my case) my childhood. I was 12 years old when the war started on December 7th 1941.
I was in the Loop (Chicago)seeing a movie with my mother and father. I don’t remember which movie, but when we left the theater we noticed a long line of young men standing outside what we later learned was a recruiting office. That I do remember.
As soon as I graduated from grade school I was expected to work during school vacations and during the summer. As you can imagine it was easy for a kid to get work during the war.
One summer I worked as a Western Union messenger. (Forty cents an hour, 16 dollars a week, minimum wage.) Notices of MIA status and of deaths were delivered by telegram, but not by messenger boys. An older man in the office had that job.
But one day a mistake was made and I was handed one of the starred envelopes to deliver. We were busy, so rather than tell the office a mistake had been made I went to the edge of our delivery district…like an angel of death in a brown Western Union messenger’s hat...with sorrow wrapped in a yellow envelope.
The address was a six-flat with a blue-starred service flag in a first floor window. I rang the bell and someone came to the door. (Odd, I can’t remember whether it was a man or woman I delivered that death knell to.) What I do remember was thinking I would never do that again.
I never again wanted to be that close to changing a blue star to gold.
My worst memory of the war.