An Iowa Farm Kid Remembers WWII

My recall of WWII will be different from those who lived in the city, as I lived on a farm in Iowa during those days. I remember asking my mom why people go to war after hearing the news on Dec. 7. I do not remember what she said, but I went to bed satisfied.

Dad was a farmer and was needed to support the war effort, so he did not go. Just before the war started, he had bought a new Farmal M tractor and 2 row corn picker. In 1942 my dad picked the second most corn in the state of Iowa. The first place farmer had 2 corn pickers. My dad and a partner ran the Farmal M 24 hr per day during the picking season in October and November. I did not see dad much during these days. Being a farmer and requiring gasoline for the tractor, we had special gasoline rationing coupons, and I do not remember gasoline as being a problem. Finding an automobile with tires was the biggest problem I remember. Our family of 4 finished the war in a 1936 International pickup that dad painted silver with a brush.

Food was not much of a problem as we had a "Victory" garden and mom canned a lot. Then we had chickens for the eggs and sale. Mom sure could wring a chicken's head off quickly, and then her fried chicken was the best. Often I'd go down to the river and catch a catfish or some bullheads for supper, and a break from the fried chicken.

They had scrap metal drives where people were to collect all scrap metal and turn it in for the 'war effort'. There was a lot of old machinery around the farm that was not used. Dad told me if I could get this stuff apart, then I'd get the money. Dad let me use some of his tools and I attacked the junk. Looking back this is when I began my interest in mechanical things. I remember taking a hay rake apart, removing the tines, then the wheels then the frame. This kept me busy for several days. Then we sold the metal for $12.74. Dad always told the story that I did not want the paper money, and only wanted the coins.

I always listened to Jack Armstrong, Captain Midnight, Terry and the Pirates, and the Lone Ranger on the radio at about 4:00 PM. I was always sending in a box top and 25 cents for some mysterious gadget. One day mom had her ladies group in for cards, and I had to listen to the radio in the old Buick. But, they interrupted my shows because the president had died. I went into the house and asked what a president was, because he had died. Many of the women cried, and I then knew this was serious.

I actually attended a one room school about a mile from our home with about 12 other farm kids. I was the only one in my grade with Don being a year younger and Ray a year older. Today, Don is a multi-millionaire farmer, and Ray has died. I remember being at school and hearing B-17 bombers approaching, and we would all run out and wave. Sometimes the bombers would roll their wings. Occasionally we would see a P-38 or a P-47 flying and those were exciting days. I knew all the planes by sight and had many arguments with Ray and Don about which was faster. Later in life I worked with an old B-17 pilot instructor who said they often flew from Texas to Iowa on training missions. They closed the one room school while I was in the 3rd grade, and I went to the "Big" school in town where there were about 10 in my grade. I was one of the smartest along with Shirley and Geroldene. We 3 had to do all the problems while the others got to stop at less. I saw Shirley at the town centennial in 2003 and she did not remember me. But, Geroldene called me when my parents died in an automobile accident in 1995. I joined the Burbank school system in 1950 when I was in the 8th grade at Jordan. This is when I met Denny Grossman.

I did not hear of the Japanese detention camps and camouflaged aircraft factories until I was in college. I know I'm glad I'm a farm kid.

Cal Roe