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Monday, June 12, 2017

WWII: I Don't Remember it, But …

As a kid, World War Two always seemed like history even though I was born during the midle of it. I only remember people speaking of it in the past tense. Other memories recorded among these autobiographical sketches have to be WWII memories, but there is nothing in the memories themselves that says so. There are a couple of snippets that I know were of tiny events during the war. 

V for Victory 

We were headed up to Wisconsin, the seven of us in our car. That would have been along Highway 8.

(I don't remember the car, but Dad later would speak of the 28-pontiac and how he began to feel it was unsafe for the family because he couldn't slow down as quickly as other cars on our trips to Wisconsin—the others had hydraulic brakes. I do remember being with Dad once when he picked up a 100-pound gunny sack of potatoes. I watched him as as he struggled to get the sack into the “trunk-like” trunk of that car.)

Dad pulled out and passed the car in front of us. The other car may have done a little honk of his horn. I'm not sure. I remember Dad looked into his rearview mirror and chuckled that the driver had flashed a V sign with his fingers. Somebody in our car asked what that was about. Dad explained that because of the war he was supposed to save gas by driving no faster than forty miles per hour. The V sign was “V for victory.” The other driver was telling Dad 
he had hurt the war effort because he had just gone over 40 mph to pass.

That is all I remember of this trivial incident that must have happened in 1944 or 1945.

The Balloon that Embarrassed My Mother

This is a hard story to tell my grandchildren because it embarrasses me just as it embarrassed my mother. The way my Mom would tell it later: “The war was on. Bobby wanted a balloon and I thought he should have one.”

So, this day, thanks to Mom, I had a balloon. I bounced it all over the house, floated it down the stairway, until … until a little before my Aunt Agnes and her small son, Dickie were due to visit. Dickie and I were the same age. Mom gently explained she did not want me to play with the balloon while Dickie visited. She took the balloon upstairs, left it on a bed, and closed the bedroom door. Whatever she said, I accepted it without much protest. When Dickie and his mother arrived, the ladies sat in the living room talking while he and I roamed the house playing. It must have been winter. We were playing upstairs when I couldn't resist the temptation to open the door and show him the bed with my prized balloon. Of course, we couldn't leave it there. We had to play with it. Before long it was floating down the stairway as we ran down after it. Mom and Agnes looked up. What was Mom to do? It was obvious to any adult that this was no ordinary balloon. They both had a big laugh. That was a relief to me, the sinner who had done what his mother asked him not to do. Only years later did I figure out what you have already figured out. My balloon was not really a balloon. They didn't make them (or at least balloons were scarce) during the war. Instead, they made condoms to keep soldiers healthy. I suspect that many a mother on a cold, indoor, winter day diagnosed her little son with cabin fever and decided the inflated condom was equally suited to his cure and entertainment.

(c) from date of posting, by Bob Komives, Fort Collins 

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