History of the 1930's and 1940's
  The 1930'sand 1940's 

The good thing about the 1930s from a child's viewpoint, assuming the family was able to provide housing, food and clothes which mine could do, was that nothing changed.   Empty lots remained empty lots to play in, stores stayed the same inside and out so you could find things, street cars and other equipment remained familiar. This is very comfortable for a young child, as I was.

In school, we were careful not to waste any paper or anything. I was in Massachusetts at the time so New England parsimony kept us going. We were handed one sheet of paper each day to do our ten arithmetic problems. They were collected, graded and torn in half. The pile of old half sheets was on the windowsill to be used if we needed to do any complicated addition or subtraction the next day.   There were about 40 children in each classroom with one teacher who was not allowed, this was Massachusetts, to whip us. The teachers did yell at us every so often. It was a large class for one woman and I'm not sure that they knew if they would be paid regularly. So they did have stress.

I do remember seeing the WPA workers building sidewalks. After we had moved back to a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I remember the WPA playing at an assembly in our school. That was really a great thing to do, hire musicians to be musicians and then let them play for schools among other places.

 World War II started when I was 14. I was sleeping on the porch of a friend's house when we were wakened by a newsboy coming up the hill from the railroad shouting, "Extra. Extra! Read all about it." The paper, September 1, 1939, was telling about the Nazis bombing Warsaw. I remember saying that this was the beginning of World War II.   And it was. Then when Pearl Harbor was bombed I found that out when a neighbor came over to talk with my father as he had been listening to the radio. I was impressed as that was the only time that Mr. MacPherson came to our house.

By the time I was a senior in high school, the department stores of Pittsburgh, were begging us to come in as clerks in their stores. Many of their clerks had left them to work in the steel mills which were hiring lots of people and paying more than the stores. As the women said, "I have to stand on my feet all day, anyway, so I may as well get paid more."   So I went in to Boggs and Buhl and sold gloves some days after school and on Saturdays. I earned thirty five cents an hour.

That next summer my friend Lucile and got jobs in a factory that made 37 mm. Shot for the army. We were company inspectors who were to inspect the shot in various stages to make sure it was put together properly. It was a small factory and our shift cut across the regular day and evening shifts so we got to know the other folks, mostly women, who worked there. Day shift women had quit as beauticians or clerks to earn higher pay. Night shift women were often supporting a family. They took longer to be friendly with Lucile and me but finally did. It was fun to work there for a summer and 

  people were friendly and good natured. Day shift women were mostly Croats and Slovenes, daughters of immigrants.

Both of my older brothers were in the service by the summer of 1943. Phil was in the army and was sent to North Africa and then to help fight up the peninsula of Italy. They could sign up to go to West Point. One person would be chosen and a whole lot of guys in the 5th Army signed up. Phil was chosen as 4th alternate. He sent a telegram to me and brother Warren that he would be home on a Sunday. I took the train home from college and my mother kept trying to find out why I was there as Phil was planning to surprise our parents. Finally the front door opened and Phil was there. Mother was more excited than I have ever seen her and Dad was also delighted. Warren and his wife soon came down from the streetcar stop. He was in uniform as the army was putting him through medical school in Philadelphia.

We were lucky and all survived. There was rationing but I hardly noticed as we had got used to making do in the Depression.

 Barbara Hempleman