“Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?” is a phrase that brings an immediate reaction in people and they can tell you right where they were. But before that, another phrase brought a similar reaction — “Where were you on Dec. 7, 1941?” — the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Fewer people are left who can answer that now. So, for the sake of preserving those memories, Beau Sherman, CNS distance learning coordinator, has created another video project called “On the Homefront.”
“CNS is excited and honored to help the community preserve the history,” said Sherman.
Sherman’s Veterans Interview Project has been an ongoing video archive of interviews with veterans over the past couple of years. These interviews were aired on CNS around Veterans’ Day, and also were made available to view at the Moultrie-Colquitt County Library in its Veterans History Project section.
After last year’s filming, Sherman was thinking getting individuals to tell the other side of the story: what was happening “on the homefront” during the wars.
On Thursday, his vision became a reality as four ladies gathered at the library to speak about their experiences. Instead of interviews, they were filmed in a more informal setting that reminded one of any living room in the community, where grandmothers, mothers and aunts would visit on a Sunday afternoon.
Melody Jenkins, director of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Library and the Ellen Payne Odom Genealogical Library, opened the session with a brief introduction then asked, “Ladies, where were you on Dec. 7, 1941?” Then they started a conversation amongst themselves that needed no prompting.
“I remember very well where I was on Dec. 7, 1941. I was in high school,” said Ann Sherman.
She said that she and her father had driven their car just below Berlin and, as soon as they heard about the attack, they jumped back in the car and went home to turn on the radio. She remembered that The Moultrie Observer printed a special edition that evening.
Myrtle Lofton said she especially remembered it because she was a sophomore in college.
“It’s been a long time but I still have memories,” she said.
Ginger Horkan said she was in the seventh grade in Atlanta, and she remembered coming into the living room to see her parents just sitting still and listening.
“I remember the dead quiet and then the repeating of the news,” she said.
She said she and her family just sat there until dark listening to the radio and she remembered Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking and what a strong speaker he was.
“He picked us all up and took us with him,” she said in admiration.
Elois Matthews said she was in the fifth grade in Berlin Elementary School and as a child it was hard to believe what had happened.
“For a child it was the most frightening thing. It was like the world was coming to an end. ... It’s still unbelievable now even as an adult,” she said.
The reminiscences about the entry of the United States into World War II led them to talk about how their day-to-day lives changed. They talked about the rationing, and Sherman told them that she and a few other girls were pulled out of their classrooms and were sat at a table to help issue rations to people. She said she was assigned to the “S” table, so she actually issued them to herself and her family.
Horkan held up a ceramic jar she had brought with her and explained how her mother had mixed shortening and yellow food coloring in that jar to make margarine.
Lofton said she especially remembered the sugar shortage and how candy was a rare thing.
“My father worked at Moody Field,” she said.
She said that sometimes there would be candy for the soldiers and her father might bring some home to her.
A couple of the ladies remembered taking a Red Cross course in school that taught them things like how to fold a washcloth so it wouldn’t drip when wiping a person’s face.
“I was impressed at how they pulled together so quickly in getting those classes going,” Horkan said.
“I think that war absolutely changed the culture of America,” interjected Lofton.
She said boys who had never even been off of the farm were being sent overseas and she didn’t think things had ever been the same since. The rest of the ladies made sounds of agreement.
“Everyone was behind Roosevelt on that war,” she continued.
They also talked about how everyone was buying war bonds and Horkan told how author Margaret Mitchell had raised money to build ships during the war. The USS Atlanta Class CL104 was a ship that was built through her work and Horkan’s husband, George, served on it during the war. She also said that Mitchell took all the Georgia boys who were assigned to the ship out to dinner.
“She really worked herself to the bone. Rolling bandages. Do you remember rolling bandages?” she asked the other ladies.
This led the ladies into discussion about the tasks they did during the war. They remembered having to help serve lunch in the cafeteria at school because of the shortage of cafeteria workers.
“We were supposed to stand there and be patriotic but I really resented it,” laughed Sherman.
She said as girls they didn’t have a choice.
“Nutrition aids. I’d forgotten about that,” interjected Horkan.
Later in their conversation, Horkan told the ladies that they had talked about how the rationing had changed people but the war itself changed people.
“As a child, it changed me,” she said.
She said because many women went to work there were nurseries in Atlanta and she volunteered at one when she was 13 because she felt she was helping the war. She said before that, she wouldn’t have.
“Well, you were being patriotic,” Matthews interjected.
Horkan also said that when she was 14, she got a job in a store.
“Well, that was the beginning of women in the workforce,” said Lofton.
The ladies also reminisced about the Big Band era and named various musicians they remembered including Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and the Andrews Sisters.
“Remember, ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’?,” said Lofton.
That reminded them of the soldiers and how the letters that came from them were censored.
“Remember the slogan, ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’?,” said Sherman.
Matthews said her husband’s family who lived outside of Spence Field had boarders who were soldiers and their wives. She said that these people became life-long friends and would come back to visit. She also reminded the ladies that German prisoners were housed at Spence Field and she said some of them would go out and work on the local farms.
This led the ladies to talk about the Japanese-Americans who were put into interment camps in California and how they thought it was sad and unfair that they were treated in such a way.
They also remembered the dropping of the atomic bomb by the Enola Gay and Lofton said she had never heard of “atomic anything” until that time.
“It was a long time ago but it doesn’t seem that long ago,” said Sherman.
She added that she didn’t think the young people today realized the sacrifice the men made and how young they were when they went to war.
“The country really pulled together,” said Horkan.
“I don’t think we really sacrificed anything as civilians. It was the soldiers and their families,” said Sherman.
“Whatever your age you have something to live through and that was something to live through,” said Horkan.
“Well, this has been a wonderful conversation and I hope the library will continue on with this,” said Sherman.
The video of the conversation will be aired first at a reception for the ladies and the public at the library on June 12. Then it will be aired on CNS Channel 6 around Flag Day. Afterwards, it will be placed with the Veterans Interview Project collection at the library.