Dear St. George Families,
If I could tell our students that one of the GOOD things about the Coronavirus is that we're being asked to surrender a little bit of our freedom for the sake of others--to "socially distance" ourselves as a way of protecting the health of the more vulnerable members of our community, especially the elderly. Yes, it's inconvenient for most of us. For those losing their jobs, it's something far more than inconvenient! But perhaps, in our shared sacrifice, we'll be a stronger, less divided country as a result.
Very few of us living today have been asked to truly sacrifice for the sake of the common good: Military families, yes. First responders, yes. But most of us live pretty comfortably, without fear of a loved one dying, without being asked to fundamentally change our habits for the sake of others.
Perhaps it's for that reason that a friend of my mother's, recently shared her memory growing up in Mobile, AL as a young girl at the time of World War II. With her permission, I am reposting her reflections here:
"We went to the Saenger Theater for a Sunday afternoon movie. They announced the Pearl Harbor bombing. I remember being in the backseat on the way home- Daddy was talking very low and seriously. I didn't understand what they were talking about, but I remember being scared. I was 9.
I remember listening to President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech. I remember how upset Mama and Daddy were when they received notice that we had to move so the ship builders could move into our house. And I remember looking at our new house on Houston Street house at night, with a flashlight. Not sure I have these things in the proper order, just memories rolling around loose.
I remember rationing and the stamps: red for meat and blue for other rationed things, like pineapple. We had meat three times a week, and "meat substitutes" the rest of the time. The rationed things were kept in a blocked off part of the store, and you had to have your stamps. You had to be careful with them. Anything made of metal was next to impossible to get: hair pins, zippers, cars, anything. Tires couldn't be found. I think I remember not having erasers on pencils. Shoes became hard to get.
My parents rented out the front bedroom to an Air Force couple, Bob and Phyllis Jolly. I loved them. Mama let them use the kitchen on Sunday mornings. I was in the third grade-we had over 40 in the class. There was always soldiers thumbing rides.
Car headlights had to be painted black halfway down from the top to cut down sky shine. Every neighborhood had its own Air Raid Warden. They wore a helmet and a belt over their shoulder. We had air raid practices-sirens would go off, all lights had to be OFF, no exceptions. The wardens patrolled to check, and when the all clear sounded, people would talk about someday it might be real.
Once I stepped in some black tar or heavy oil on the beach at the Gulf. The story was that it was from a German sub that had come almost up to the Bay. It was said they were trying to meet with the German community in Elberta to get fresh food. We watched the planes from Pensacola practice dive bombing targets at the east end of Lake Shelby when we were on vacation in the cabins. Remnants of those targets were there for many years. All windows that faced the Gulf had to be painted black.
When we (kids) went to the Saturday movies to see our serial, we would stand up and cheer any time we saw our flag, or an American soldier fighting a Japanese soldier or a German soldier. The Japanese were especially despised. When war news came on the radio, everyone sat in the living room and listened to every word.
Gas was rationed, so there was no such thing as going for a ride. I remember going to the little Delchamps store and trying to buy 3 Cokes for Mama. Rationed! I think it was because of the sugar, which was scarce. Once a week, 3 cokes! And no chewing gum.
I remember our cousin William was the first to go in our family. His convoy sailed out of New York and had to turn back because of German subs. He sailed on to Africa, fought Rommel's army, crossed the Mediterranean to Sicily, then to Italy, and up the peninsula to somewhere near Rome, and then home.
I remember going to my friend Mit's house. Her cousin had come home after being freed from a German prison camp. I sat next to him at the picnic, he could barely talk, and his hands shook. I can't remember his name. I never saw him again. I was maybe 12-13."
I don't know if the impact of the Coronavirus will get worse before it gets better. But I find it comforting to be reminded that we've endured much worse in our history, and we got through it, together.
May God give us faith, peace and forbearance as we tackle this pandemic as "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."