Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Grandmother and World War II

Neither rain nor snow nor glom of nit 
can stay these messengers abot thier duty.  
~ Motto for the Ankh-Morpork Post Office
Terry Pratchett

During World War II, my father's family lived in Portland, Oregon.  My grandfather was a welder at the Navy shipyards (during the days) and, for a short time, my grandmother worked at the ship yards too, in the map room (at night).  Here is a picture from that time period:  

My grandmother is the shorter of the two women, on your left.  (Notice that they are holding hands.)  

She had a lot of stories from that time in her life.  For example, she used to talk about the rationing.  There was a Mormon working in the same office who used to give her his allotment of coffee because he didn't drink it (it was against his religion) - she thought that was so nice of him, until the day when he made it clear that she owed him and he expected her to go out with him!  Needless to say, she declined...  

She talked about how she and my grandfather would save up their gas coupons for weeks, just to have enough gasoline to go for a Sunday drive.  

And how they were only allowed one pair of shoes per year.  

There was the cigarette story:  My grandfather smoked and, because he worked during the day, she was the one who had to wait in the long, long lines to buy his cigarettes.  One day she got fed up with the waiting and told him that he would have to buy his own cigarettes.  He waited in that line exactly once, before he gave up smoking for good!  ;)

Her favorite job during that time was in the U.S. Post Office.  Oh, she had wonderful stories from that job!  One of my favorites was about the time when a woman came in with a framed paining wrapped loosely in newspaper and twine.  It was heavy and clearly still had the glass in the picture frame.  The woman wanted to mail the package and insure it.  Grandmommy agreed to ship it, but refused to insure it, because she did not believe that it had been wrapped properly.  

Well, the woman threw a fit in a haughty way and said that her mother had wrapped the package and her mother did everything well.  If her mother said that the package was wrapped securely, then it was wrapped securely.  They went back and forth for quite a while, until Grandmommy finally said that, if the package was wrapped so securely, then there was no reason to insure it.  

The woman sniffed, but she had painted herself into a corner and had to agree.  So she paid the postage and handed the package to my grandmother.  Grandmommy placed it on the table behind her, where the packages were stacking up.  

Now, this was around Christmas time and the post office was very busy - so some sailors were there to help out.  As the woman was walking away from the counter, one of the sailors grabbed the package and tossed it into another pile.  The sound of glass breaking could be heard throughout the entire room.  

The woman flinched, but kept walking and never looked back...  

I wish I had video-taped my grandmother telling her stories.  


  1. I do love this story. You told it so well. Ann would be proud. It can be the start of your book.

  2. Thanks, Resa! Maybe we should co-write that book! ;)