World War II in Mississippi

Memories of my Life During WWII

I as born during the Depression years our family lived  near the University in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. My parents and I shared a shotgun house on 10th Street three blocks west of Bryant-Denny stadium with a widowed aunt with two young daughters, and two single aunts.

Daddy often joked that when I was born he had two nickels in his pocket, He spent one on a telephone call to tell everyone that I had arrived, and the other to celebrate with a cup of coffee. Then he added, “I’ve been broke ever since.”

Daddy bought an antebellum home that was being torn down  near the Warrior River in Tuscaloosa and used the lumber to build a house for his family on the Graham farm in Romulus. The mansion was reconfigured as a  two bedroom bungalow. My brother and sister were born before Pearl Harbor. Clouds of war were threatening even down to the small farm in Tuscaloosa County.

Later we moved to Pascagoola, Mississippi where Daddy was a mechanic in the government boatyard across the bay from Ingalls Shipyard. We were there when the news of Pearl Harbor was broadcast and the town became a boomtown,  so crowded that workers in the shipyard rented rooms from families who lived nearby. Neighbors from Ralph, Ethard and Mutt Styres, were two of our boarders.  Our living room became a dormitory for men who worked in war production. Our family all slept in one bedroom. Mama provided meals and laundry for the boarders and made more money than daddy, they told us later.

We lived a mile from the Gulf of Mexico and often went to the beach and saw huge anti-aircraft guns covered with camouflage netting a hundred feet from the waves in the trees along highway 90. Soon there was rationing of gas and food. Children bought war stamps to go in their books, saving stamps to buy war bonds. There were black-out shades for the windows in case enemy planes made it to the Mississippi coast.

We watched as fathers and big brothers went off to war, but were fortunate that my father’s work with the Corps of Engineers protected him from the draft. The influx  of workers and the shortage of building supplies made it necessary for existing schools to have morning and afternoon  shifts of students in very crowded classrooms. Despite the war we were happy there until my brother’s asthma grew so severe doctors advised that we move away from the coast if he were to survive.

We returned to the Graham family farm in the community of Romulus, in Tuscaloosa County. My father had been able to redeem the farm after his father lost it during the Depression. We have lived here since. My great grandchildren make the seventh generation to live on this ever-diminishing plot of ground. My children only inherited five acres each.

My Children will never understand the love my generation has for this land.

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