Current look back at the home front

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My Years of Eating Dangerously

by: William Jeanes, former editor-in-chief of ‘Car and Driver’

Marie Osmond told me on tv that she lost 50 lbs. eating prepackaged meals sent to her home, and not too long ago, the nation’s first lady ran off the White House pastry chef.  That reminded me of childhood mealtimes and my grandmother’s nutritional malfeasance.

Until well after WWII ended, I lived on 6th Street in Corinth, MS, with my grandparents.  Two aunts also lived with us.  All the men were in the Pacific, leaving my grandfather (Pop), to provide.  My grandmother (Mom), ran the house.

Pop was a superb provider.  He worked as a carpenter for the TVA and had a green B sticker on his car’s windshield, meaning that we had income and gasoline.  He also had a green thumb and grew green vegetables in a huge backyard garden.  Pop also fished, and he put fresh bream and crappie on our big dining room table at least twice a week.  He also oversaw a backyard chicken house that delivered eggs as well as raw material for the big, black frying pan that dominated Mom’s cooking.

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Mom was a canner and preserver.  We had – in what seemed to be endless quantity – green beans, pickled beets, peaches, strawberry preserves, and goodness knows what else.

Mom supplemented this bounty by going to the tiny Kroger store once a week for meat, which was rationed, and such staples as Luzianne coffee, Domino sugar, Clabber Girl baking powder and Crisco shortening.

Many things were served fried: chicken, green tomatoes, fish and pork chops.  Steak, scarce in wartime, was “chicken-fried.”  Meatloaf was baked of course, as was macaroni and cheese.

Mom always overcooked the steak and pork chops.  In those times, the idea of a rare steak or hamburger could disgust whole neighborhoods.  A typical summer meal included fried fish, tomatoes, green beans or butter beans and turnip greens or collards.  I hated greens more than I hated Tojo or Hitler.  If we had salad, it was a wedge of iceberg lettuces doused with French dressing, an orangey liquid unknown in France.

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Modern nutritionists would hyperventilate just thinking about what we ate in the 1940’s.  On the healthy side were the vegetables and greens that were available 6 months out of the year.  From there, things went nutritionally sideways.  Nowadays my grandparents would be guilty of child abuse.

Can you imagine a germ-laden hen house in a backyard of today?  How about wringing the neck of a chicken on the back steps?  Those activities would have brought the SWAT teams from PETA and the EPA pouring through our front door.

The Dept. of Agriculture never inspected Pop’s garden, let alone the hen house, and Mom adhered to no federal guidelines when it came to canning and cooking and cake making.  As fore fried food, the only questions were, “Is it crisp enough?” and “May I have some more?”

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Out house was heated by coal, we drank non-homogenized milk and we rarely locked doors.  It’s a wonder I wasn’t overcome by fumes, poisoned or stolen by gypsies.  Yet we survived.  Pop lived to be 88 and Mom 82.  Both aunts made it well past 80 and I was 77 on my last birthday. [This was originally published in Sept/Oct. 2015].

That’s what 400 year’s worth of fried chicken and beet pickles can do for you.

Condensed from the Saturday Evening Post.

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 Military Humor – on their food – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Arthur – Louisville, KY; USMC, WWII, PTO

Charlton ‘Chuck’ Cox – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 navigator/Korea06062012_AP120606024194-600

Edward Fuge – Otaki, NZ; RNZ Navy, WWII

Delva Gess – Chewelah, ID; USO, WWII

Roy Hart – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, CBI & ETO

Cecil Jarmer – Portland, OR; US Navy, WWII, CBI

George Macneilage – San Bernadino, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div., artillery

Nita Rinehart – Ashtabula, OH; US Navy, WWII WAVES, WWII

Ernest Sprouse Jr. – Knoxville, TN; US Navy, WWII, USS Frost

Gene Wilder, Milwaukee, WI; US Army, (beloved actor)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 1, 2016, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 168 Comments.

  1. Great memoirs of a time when the home life was a compact unit, food was as much part of the home as everything else, Chooks and preserving jars, epitomise a life so far distant to what we know today.
    Great imagery of a bygone era in that post mate, well posted.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    My parents canned some, but it wasn’t always successful. My dad baked bread and rolls. It’s hard to eat the stuff from the store when you’ve had the real thing. We kids learned to cook when we were young. My mother shopped at the Farmer’s Market. We ate fresh spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, and broccoli often.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely post on the way things were. My parents both had childhood/ teenage diets which would make a modern doctor have a heart attack, just thinking about it. Yet at 96 and 94 my parents are still here. They are hardy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Enjoyed that so much I re-blogged it. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved reading this. It was more or less the menu of my childhood. Of course, most of it was what we requested when we went home. As a child, I remember going with my father to take wheat, oats and barley to the mill. We also had our own beef, pork and chickens and of course mom raised a truck size garden to feed us and the hired help. What a different world we lived in.
    All the years of going home, a little restaurant sat on the open plains near Burden, KS called ‘The Little Hooker.’ Everything was made from scratch and not a fresh vegetable was in site unless you counted the lettuce on a hamburger. They sold live bait out the back and made the best food anywhere. People drove in from all over to eat there. I once heard a woman from St. Louis comment to her friend, “How do you suppose all these old men live eating all this fried food?” Well, I was there with my Dad and he was 92 at the time. He’s been eating there almost every night since Mom had died (20 years). I didn’t bother telling her all the “old men” got up before the sun to care of their animals and crops and that in the winter they still rode the open range making sure baby calves hadn’t laid down in the snow and ice!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I enjoyed this post. Sometimes I think that people were much more aware of food quality back in the day – and made thoughtful decisions about what was safe to eat and what wasn’t. For example, your comment about how people “overcooked” meat back then may have minimized any food safety risks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Overcooking meat brings out the carcinogens, but back then, meat may still have been infected with the trichinella spiralis that causes trichinosis. This is very rarely seen in US meat any longer – but it was a different world back then and I believe they had their reasons.

      Like

  7. My Grandpa Len is 83 and he was a chef in the merchant navy working his way up to chief steward so he really can cook good food and gets so much meat out of a chicken making soup out of the carcass and leftovers, he passed his skills on to my Dad who does the best Sunday roast dinner ever. But when my Mum tells Dad off for liking fat too much he reminds her Grandpa ate dripping butties, leaves the skin on chicken and eats it crisped up, fries chicken pieces and breaded veal. Eats chips and all the stuff we’re told not to like butter, great chunks of cheese, the fat on chops, his own grown veg must counter it 😄 although this is getting harder for him to manage now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fond memories that make my mouth water. I really like this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. how wonderful to have lived long & well
    eating those most basic, non-designer foods 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Loved Gene Wilder in ‘Blazing Saddles’ “Need any help? Oh, all I can get.” As he was hanging upside down from the bed… epic!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I just love reading this stuff! BRAVO my dear! I’m not 77 yet, but, I do remember we never locking the door when I was growing up. The milkman brought 2 quarts of fresh milk to our house and tucked it inside the squeaky screen door every morning. What bliss!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to fight for the cream on top before mom would shake it up!
      You must be young (old?) enough to remember when every mom’s best dish was a plate of store-bought Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. That brings back memories! It is a miracle we all survived.
    I also particularly noticed Gene Wilder in the Salutes. It comes as a surprise to many that a number of Hollywood celebrities had distinguished war careers. Audie Murphy’s is well known, of course, but what about James Stewart,Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Lee Marvin and numerous others? British included Alec Guinness, David Niven, Michael Caine, and Richard Todd (whom I met once).

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Real food … aaaaah, those were the days. Things had taste and flavour and stuff back then.
    One only has to ask who is the healthier, for all our hi-hygiene de-fooded ultra processed synthetic mechanised would-be ‘food’ these days: back then, or now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you’re saying and I whole-heartedly agree!!!!! Oh, how I long for the days when I ate dangerously!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Strangely, we folks who ate ‘poor & unsafe’ foods often outlive (with better health) the moderns. I’ve never understood that …

        Liked by 1 person

        • Our “safe” food of today is also loaded with processed food-stuff, chemicals, preservatives, colorings, etc (which are also sometimes responsible for ‘progress diseases’ such as hyperactivity in children). Our “fresh” produce is picked green, tomatoes gassed to look green, etc, all may look like yester-year’s produce but without the nutrients of the fresh picked out of the garden and onto the table type of freshness. Longer life today is attributed to better medicine and operating procedures, organ transplants, etc.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Proved often enough with bananas. Ours come in green, and ‘ripen’ (turn yellow) in the fruit bowls. Sadly yellow doesn’t equate with ripe …
            I have acquired a rep as an eccentric because people throw out their own bananas as soon as they start getting brown spots—mine stay in the bowl until they are truly horrible to look at; but inside that mottled brown/black skin lurks a banana that at last doesn’t taste all ‘powdery’ and is even softish and a bit sweetish.
            Timing is everything, but upcoming generations will never know the difference—and they’ll pay for it.

            Liked by 1 person

      • You all drove me to fried chicken for ‘supper’ tonight.Remember when everyone called the evening meal supper? Eating dangerously!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Enjoy every morsel, Bev. I know I sure (still) enjoy it. The only difference I do today is add some Everglades Seasoning when it’s ready to eat, otherwise I’ve been trying to eat like mom and dad showed me so long ago!

          Liked by 1 person

  14. I love this post. I’m a few years younger, but I can remember something similar in the post war England with the chickens and pigs pretty close to us. My father, having wrung the chicken’s neck, and plucked it, would have us round the kitchen table learning how to take the insides out. My mother bottled everything that ever grew.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Gene Wilder was an Army veteran…I didn’t know that. My parents were from Oklahoma and we grew up on fried everything (even fried okra…which is delicious). Fried chicken is one of my favorite things to eat to this day!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh,G.P. does that bring back memories! Looks like the author and I are the same age. Growing up on a small farm in the 40’s and 50’s this article sure rings a bell. Chopped the head off of so many chickens, We never killed an egg producing hen, waited until they too old and then had to be roasted instead of fried. I can’t stand eating chicken yet today. As far as drinking raw milk is concerned, As I grew older I had to milk the cow by hand. The cream was taken off the top and most of it went into the butter churn. We grew up on 2% milk before it became chic. And summer meant fresh vegetables from the garden and late summer meant canning. Rows and rows of Mason jars in the cellar. All gone by spring. Good memories of bygone days. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Williams’ article is great – the photos are a nice flashback – and I think the key to some of the longevity health here had to do with less fungus in the body, less have metal exposures, and less antibiotic destruction – because I know many folks who beehive that cancer is directly related to a fungal infection (that feed on sugar) and a corrupted bioterrain means than cancer cells can take on new life (instead of getting destroyed) because our immune system is suppressed.

    recently read a great article about how candidiasis infection (the final form of candida) can change the way heavy metals act in the body….. and don;t even want to get started on the high fructose corn syrup – but it makes domino sugar look like a health food item.

    also, calcification inside the body is more prevalent now then in the decades past – and in the 1950’s – they began using EDTA for heavy metal chelation – likely from warm associated metal exposures – but you would know more of that – but EDTA also can be used in canning… anyhow, it has also been shown hat EDTA chelation can help clear clogged arteries – and help with circulation issues – so all these folks who had heavy metals chelated had the perk of decalcification and now chelation is used for heart health by many aware docs. The oral EDTA chelation takes longer, but I did it to help get rid of dental metals I was exposed to – and whew – pretty amazing – but it also helps with removing calcified minerals from the body – and some folks do the IV EDTA chelation, which can be a bit expensive.
    anyhow, this was what came to mind as I read about the longevity here – and when people talk about grandparents who lived a long time – I think we also have more toxins because our food is imported and they come with flukes and other parasites that also corrupt the terrain – and so in my mind – the folks he writes about had a health bio terrain – good stomach acid – and a strong immune system….

    thanks for sharing this -:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • All this would be totally alien to that generation. They knew what they liked to eat and while still supporting the war and get through a Great Depression, they did just that. For some reason, my great-grandmother continually tole my father to eat his bread, despite seeing mold on it – she didn’t know why of course, but we all know now where penicillin comes from.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yes – good point – and one of my old professors would talk about how that mold eaten would usually get eaten up by the stomach acid – or should. The problem today is that the fungal form of candida is causing leaky gut, there is biofilm instead f stomach acid – and all these gluten issues are really a result of bioterrain problems and not so much food. and sadly, as much as penicillin has helped with certain infections – we are finding serious issues later on because those and other antibiotics wipe out all the good guys… so while they rid the bad pathogens – they also take out the body’s fighters – and leave the terrain vulnerable to future problems.

        and I actually use a military analogy when counseling folks on restoring the terrain. When we take probiotics – or drink kefir with many strains of the good bacteria – or when we eat pre-biotic fermented foods like sauerkraut – well we help send in the good guys into our gut… it is like sending in the special teams – some probiotics are like the army rangers and seals – ha!

        anyhow, I just shared all this because so often I hear folks who want to know why a grandmother could smoke until they were 100 – or why someone else at friend chicken and live to be 90 – it is because they had a strong immune system and their terrain was not corrupted – we are not always what we eat – we are what we absorb from eating – and the problems many have today are corrupted mucosa lining (where most of immunity stems from) and well – that is more than enough. Thanks for letting me share – this is a topic dear to my heart.
        oh and the photos really were a nice throwback – of yesteryear appliances and kitchen sizes too – 🙂

        Like

        • I find I feel worse with antibiotics and refuse to take them for that reason. With a sinus infection, I usually need an antiviral anyway!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I hear ya — and those viruses can be pesky – eh? side note (oh no – another one) but if you ever want to try something new for sinuses – oregano oil is wonderful – and so is grapefruit seed extract –
            because did you know that many deep sinus issues have a fungal component too? and sometimes small parasites – and antibiotics don’t stand a chance there – the parasites can carry viral loads too – and the oregano oil and or GSE are full spectrum and wonderful –
            ok – enjoyed a bit of a blog gay today my friend – and will be back later to catch up on some other posts here – peace

            Liked by 1 person

  18. I was too young to remember the war years but remember what it was like at our house in the late 40s and early 50s. Obviously we were beyond rationing, but the rest of the article sounds like home. We had chickens and rabbits and even a pair of goats in our back yard. Casseroles came out of the oven on a regular basis and many of our vegetables came straight from our garden. We didn’t have steak often, but when we did, it was medium rare. That was different. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  19. elizabeth ann johnson-murphree

    Reblogged this on ANN JOHNSON-MURPHREE and commented:
    A great post to start a new month by GP COX…enjoy

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks for sharing. Grew up in Appalachia during the late 60’s and 70’s. This is the food my grandparents ate. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. We had meat, potatoes and vegetables every day. Sometimes Nana cooked soup with barley in it. I hated it so much and still can’t eat soup with barley in it!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. What a great post, GP. I think it was a time when people had to be resourceful. Reminds me of my home growing up – raw cow’s milk, fresh eggs and garden greens. We used to eat the peas right off the vine and my dad would get so mad. All good. 50 years later we still eat that way – the only difference is it’s goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Great post.I’m happy to read it

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Our favorite family dinner right after the war consisted of fried chicken (from our chicken pen), mashed potatoes with gravy, homemade noodles (using our eggs), green beans, and custard pie for dessert (more eggs used). Yes, I still have a weight problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Loved the line about PETA SWAT teams. Good one GP

    Liked by 1 person

  26. oh, what a treat to read! Woof!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I too enjoyed the article. Reminded me of when both my grandmothers talked about that time and brought back good memories. Smiling at the bugle player in the humor section 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you recall any of your grandmothers’ stories – would you share? This was such a fun post – including that bugler!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, would be happy too. Let me think on it tonight. I too loved the fun post, Everett!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Most everyone has been able to relate in some way and it’s been great to read the responses!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, went back and read some of the responses and they are good. My grandparents would have been in their late 30’s when the war ended. They farmed for a lot of years. She talked about how my grandfather would work in the fields all day and come back and milk the cows since they had both land and a dairy farm. She did a lot of canning. She also cooked everything overdone for the most part. They both loved chicken and they would have a meal with that and green beans, mashed potatoes and once in awhile fruit which was a treat. She use to collect S & H Green stamps for a lot of years. When they moved into town I use to help her. We would look in the catalog and see what we would want to get.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Oh boy, I am old – I remember the S&H stamps! I hated licking them, so I’d use a damp sponge instead. I remember, just before they stopped honoring them, I was saving to get Christmas presents and suddenly my mom told me that my cousin didn’t have the money for presents for her children – so right – you guessed it – she took the stamps.

              Liked by 1 person

  28. Great reminders. I missed that era, but we pinched every penny when I was growing up, so we did things like Spam and lots of hamburger (which is barely affordable now; pork is much cheaper).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes!! How tuna casserole – now it’s what? about $1.50 a can or more for the kind we used to get back then. The butcher used to give mom cod for free for her cat, no it’s about $11.00 a pound, right? Those days are gone forever.

      Like

  29. Ahh mum’s home cooking, whether it be the 40s, 50s, or in my case the 60s, it always stays with you. How times have changed!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I have to tell you – I admire the self sufficiency of our elders and Fore Fathers (and Mothers). They knew the value of things. Nothing was handed to them – and they wouldn’t have expected it – or asked it.
    Yet they were generous and good at heart.
    That Sad Sack comic is great. I used to buy those when I was a kid. “12 cents”!!?? Man! that was fortune for a kid.
    Well spent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A generation like that will never ce seen again. All we do is try to emulate them and keep their memories alive! Our parents made history like no one ever will again!

      Like

  31. Amazing how when people eat REAL FOOD they seem to not only survive, but THRIVE! “Germs” (as I’ve discussed before) are not the ENEMY. I’m sure you know this based on the massive numbers that surrounded you living this lifestyle without lethal incidence.

    Today, a large percentage of the “stuff” we consume isn’t REAL FOOD. Without the nutrients necessary to maintain healthy function our immune systems weaken. In our attempts to prevent disease (with nearly 70 vaccinations from birth to 18 years old) we alter the body’s ability to address disease with an artificial approach that DOES NOT create the SAME immune response that would naturally occur if exposed to the pathogen (bacteria, virus, etc…)

    People are going to get sick and die whether they follow a natural approach to health or follow a medicated approach to disease. I’ll bet if FEAR was removed as a causative factor in choosing either approach, more people would choose a NATURAL HEALTHY approach to living life.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Makes you wonder about these doctors and nutritionists today condemning everything that people eat. My father lived to 87. He was still working full-time until the last 4 yrs when he went to part time. He mostly ate hotdogs, potato salad, and jelly. I can’t remember any significant problem until he actually died. No one thought he ever would.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were quite a hardy generation, that’s for sure! They were accustomed to work and I even worked with a man who thought he stayed alive by working. I think it’s great. Thanks for sharing your story about your dad with us!!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Excellent! We have a trillion tons of coal under the North Sea, and nobody has the brains to work out a way of using it without causing excessive pollution. But what about the coal fired 40s and the 50s? Weren’t there lots of cold winters then? And as you so rightly point out, it’s just the same with food.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure coal was burned back then, I know Pennsylvania has coal mines, but there were less people back then and the next generation had to deal with the pollution. My parents grew up on a fishing island in New York, I know they had kerosene heaters. Do you have any stories from back then?

      Like

  34. And my Grandma did it all on a wood burning kitchen stove.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. My diet, growing up, was exactly like this in the fifties and sixties. My parents and grandparents went through WWII and the Great Depression. Enjoyed the article.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I just left a comment on yesterday’s post…. I DO WANT to you use the information regarding Everett Smith about Camp Polk and his letters from there. I must have responded in the wrong place as I have sent you three messages now. Hoping you get this one. I received the Candy Bar story yesterday from my brother. So, you don’t have an email address at all? Please confirm you received this.

    Myra

    Liked by 1 person

  37. It all sounds pretty tasty! Although I grew up in kitchen with a “still kicking” red meat rule, and my dad thinks well-done chicken-fried steak is a war crime. But everything else sounded just great, and that’s the only way I like beets, pickled! Fun article!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Oh the memories here! Crisco, Clabber Girl, Domino Sugar, growing veggies in the back yard and canning them in mason jars and greens 🙂 My mom told me stories of them having chickens in their back yard, how they donated cooking grease to the cause and the ration coupons.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. I was not around during the war but spent a lot of time hearing about it! I heard about my great grandmother’s expertise with preparing chickens for dinner. Fried or with dumplings. PETA would definitely be involved these days! Enjoyed this article tremendously ! Love fried green tomatoes!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. What great memories. Thanks for posting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. I loved, loved, loved this! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Wonderful post. I was born in 1951. My parents and grandparents both went through the war years. They continued growing lots of vegetables after the war. It was in the nation’s consciousness to do this. So was make-do-and-mend. It didn’t do us any harm.
    Really enjoyed reading this. All the best. Kris.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how my parents were too. My father even grew worms in the basement one year for mom’s garden. As they spread out out – we had the greenest lawn on the block and I was sent around the neighborhood giving the neighbors veggies.

      Like

  43. This is all so true, and brought the nostalgia flooding back. After the war and into the Fifties, my family were keen to make sure that their children didn’t want for luxuries. I was fed cake, lard, sugar, and full-fat milk. Huge dinners were cooked until they waved a white flag, and followed by stodgy puddings, more cake, and biscuits (cookies) later on.
    Although my teeth suffered, and I fought a lifetime struggle against being slightly overweight, I have so far made it to 65 without any serious problems. My Mum made it to 87, the same age as her Mum before her. And I don’t think they had ever heard the word ‘nutrition’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. hahaha – so funny and true –

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Fried chicken and fried green tomatoes. Fresh veggies. It hardly sounds like sacrifice, but they worked hard to divert as little as possible from the war effort.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Haha, excellent post, I guess you had to be pretty tough to eatlike that and survive, especially to those sorts of ages 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Great article GP..appreciate you posting it. I love reading about how things were at home during the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  48. Thanks – it was a fun post, eh?

    Like

  1. Pingback: Current look back at the home front | Pacific Paratrooper - Expat In Bacolod

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