Bacon and Piggy Banks

Our family moved back and forth between the towns of Vallejo and Watsonville. In 1940, Dad was working for Union Ice Company. He was a top ice-refrigerator salesman, then became a manager and foreman of the ice delivery crew. He occasionally took Larry with him on deliveries. My brother was impressed with the tons of ice in the huge vending machines, especially the ice machine located by the big fifty-foot-high barrel restaurant. He also vividly recalls going along to deliver ice to the large Army base near Watsonville, awed by the hundreds of tents and thousands of soldiers in uniform.

My brother has other memories of that time. The park was a big deal, and after much pleading, Mom would take him and Carleen there. She sat and read while they swung and teeter-tottered, running around and playing until it was time to head home for dinner. He has memories of taking weekend trips to Carmel with Mom, Dad and Carleen, driving down Ocean Avenue to the beach.

On Dec 7, 1941, the family gathered quietly around the radio, the link to the outside world, listening to the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had attacked our naval base there. Our country had serious concerns that our coast would be invaded by Japan, and right after the bombing, all the local Japanese were interned or relocated. There were blackout sheets on all the windows. Everyone had flash cards so they could tell the difference between American and Japanese planes. Between 1942 and 1945, sugar and butter were rationed and the government issued scrip to buy meat. You couldn’t buy a new car because they weren’t being made. All manufacturing efforts went into making vehicles for the war. You could buy a used car, but gas was rationed, too.

As there was a food shortage, they picked raspberries as a family. The Japanese were no longer there to work the fields and the remaining pickers were employed in defense jobs. Our parents made two or three dollars a day. Larry, who was eight, and Carleen seven, picked all they could eat and could eat all they wanted. The farmers paid them a nickel a basket for what they didn’t consume. Larry and Carleen made a quarter each, their first earned money. Daddy bought them piggy banks so they could save their wages.

Mom, Larry and Carleen were staying with Mom’s sister and her family for a few days. Ina had somehow secured a pound of bacon and the next morning she cooked it for breakfast. Their children were at kids’ table in the other room. When Ina returned to the kitchen to fix their plates, she found that Mom had eaten all the bacon.

Ina chewed her younger sister out. “And what about the kids?” she snapped.

Mom’s defense was that they were too young to know. “Besides,” she sniffed, “I haven’t had any bacon lately.”

Larry and Carleen

The most exciting thing that happened to Larry that year was when a huge military blimp broke loose from its wire anchors and landed in the front yard. A fleet of military trucks with soldiers from Mare Island came to get the blimp. Larry was upset, but not about the blimp being carted away. An Army truck had run over his favorite toy. His little red wagon was crushed.

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  1. Devere Chatfield says:

    Catherine-I’m not sure you knew this but your Dad and my Dad probably worked side by side at Union Ice Co. in Vallejo. Pappy was a delivery man. In those days (before refrigerators), the ice was carried by men who hauled the ice on their backs over a leather strap. We spent many a day at the ice plant where there was always a pile of “shaved ice” outside the plant. Lovingly, your cousin, Devere

  2. You are like a tree in the forest, a Story Tree, sharing your nostalgic tales with all us other trees. Those wartime years hold so many surreal memories…the blackouts, (in SF – my dad was a block warden), our Japanese friends being sent away, the cereal boxes with war images to cut out, the margarine with the little red dot to squish and mix in, and strangely overlaid with my father losing all his inheritance but us kids being kept in the dark…great material for growing a Soul, as a shaman told me. Thanks Catherine and keep your light shining in the forest!

  3. Loved reading this family memory of history…. Engaged all the way!

  4. Jeff Elliot says:

    You’re Mum was a trip and a half.

  5. Wow Catherine, you knocked another one out of the park. I really enjoyed returning to this WW II period with your family.

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