By Doris Schroeder
It was on a Sunday 75 years ago, December 7, 1941, I noticed how bright the California sun was as I walked along the sidewalk in front of the Kern County Library in McFarland, California. I was coming home from Sunday School I had attended in a little white church about four blocks from our house.
I was thinking about what the morning news we had heard on the radio that morning meant. President Roosevelt had announced that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. They had been in the process of instigating peace with the U.S. and then, without any warning, they had flown 353 Japanese fighter bombers and torpedo planes in two waves, flying them from six aircraft carriers a little ways off of Pearl Harbor.
The next day, our president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had called this a “day in infamy” as the United States declared war. About a week later, he declared war on Germany also.
I was only eight years old and had been attending the second grade in the Kern County Elementary School. Our family had moved from the Kansas farm to the golden state just that previous summer.
But war? I knew nothing about that and had never even studied much history of the U.S. What would it all mean?
In the back of my mind, I wondered what Christmas would be like this year living in a little town north of Bakersfield, California on Highway 99.
Back on the farm, we usually had a white Christmas and had to plow through some deep snow to get anywhere. Now we had nice sunny weather almost all the time.
I wondered about my friends back home and the Christmas programs they would be having and felt just a twinge of homesickness. Still, the kids in my room at school were all very friendly and I was enjoying all the extra things we got to do in class very much.
But now, getting back to this war thing. I had seen a few newsreels at the movies and in it; the planes would fly overhead and drop bombs. “Will they drop bombs here?” I wondered, as I kicked a pebble along the walk.
As the days progressed, I could hear the little planes fly overhead more and more as the pilots practiced their flying. It always gave me a strange feeling to hear the motors rev up as they made a short dive. Sometimes, when I heard the drone of the engines I would sing “You are my sunshine” as loud as I could so I couldn’t hear them. Soon our little town was having blackout drills and it was spooky at night when there were no lights on.
We did have a different Christmas that year in 1941. I had convinced my parents to attend the Christmas program at the little church where I attended Sunday School. I liked the teachers so much because they seemed so loving and I had a lot of questions about heaven. Even though there was no snow, I felt a sense of peace in spite of all the news of the war.
In a few months my Dad decided to get a job in a defense plant in Pittsburgh, California. It was told that they could earn the mighty sum of one dollar an hour. He and my girlfriends’ father, Mr. Moreland, drove up and would come back sometimes on week ends. My friend and I would ride our scooters to the edge of town and watch the cars come down Highway 99, looking for my dad’s ‘39 Mercury.
I can remember walking down the sidewalk on another day and thinking about the fact that we had heard of a terrible man named Hitler. I wondered what this world was coming to, with madmen like that trying to take over the world. Would he succeed? I hoped not!
Finally the day came when Dad had found an apartment for us in Pittsburgh. We packed our belongings and Mom, Carol and I boarded the bus to take the long trip. I guess rentals were so scarce, this was all my dad could find. It was one fourth of a two bedroom bungalow house. Our family had the front room with two beds, a couch and a folding table. We had to go through the owners bedroom to get to the kitchen and the bathroom was on the back porch.
By the time school started, my parents had found a little camper located in a small community called Ambrose and we had a little more privacy. We lived in a trailer camp for a few months. Actually this was the only time I didn’t really love school but still it was an exciting adventure. The neighbor kids and I would see buses go by with German war prisoners and I felt sorry for them.
As the year went by from the famous date of December 7, the war became more and more fierce. I prayed often when I walked down the sidewalk and asked God to keep our country safe. I continued to learn more about what it was like to be at war.
Although it started as a “day in infamy,” it wasn’t any fun! How wonderful we had a God who heard us pray to him and He kept our country safe because many people believed in him! How often we need to relearn the lesson that He is the only one we can depend on no matter what is happening. And He still is!
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at dorisschroeder @att.net