Tuesday, October 07, 2008

MEMORIES……”Brown Out” in 1944

The house in this picture is not where I grew up ... but it is very similar in style. Ours was more of a 3-story “white elephant”. It was in need of a coat of paint and was very hard to keep warm in the winter months; but, I have some very fond memories of it nevertheless.

I was 11 years old in 1944 and World War II was in full swing. As you will know if you’ve read my earliest blog entries our family had opted to entertain British sailors. (That’s me with Ron and Paddy, in the picture.) We lived in Massachusetts, about 30 minutes from Boston, and many of the boys who were our guests were stationed at the Fargo Naval Base.

These boys would come out by train on the weekends. It was not unusual for us to have 4 or 5 of them at one visit and we loved it ... and them.

It was also the time of the “brown-outs”. This meant that outside lights were forbidden and just the bare minimum of light was allowed to be turned on inside our houses. We also had to cover the windows (and any other area where light could escape to the outside) with heavy black shades.

The way that our house was designed you would come into a small entry first and then through another door into our main hallway. There were no windows in this area and it was the perfect place to gather during a brown-out.

We were a very full household in those years. All four of my older sisters were still living at home, as well as an elderly school teacher who rented a room from us and, of course, my parents. So you can imagine how crowded it was in our hallway. We would gather on the steps of the staircase as well as on the chairs that we would drag in and, of course, on the floor.

We were able to share stories and anecdotes about our lives. It was also the time that we ingested gallons of tea. We couldn’t wait to swallow that last drop and then we would hand our cups to Paddy. He had convinced us that he was a master fortune teller and all he needed to foretell our futures were the tea leaves left in the bottom of our cups.

Paddy would turn the selected cup over onto the saucer and give it a good twist. Then, after many dramatic shakes of his head and a long study of the leaves, he would proceed to tell us our upcoming fates. Strangely enough it was always good news! The “war was nearing an end”, we were all going to “find our true loves” and “bluebirds would definitely fly over the White Cliffs of Dover again”.

It didn’t matter ... for a short time the war receded and we were united under the light of our one candle. Paddy, and all the rest of the boys, gave our family an intimate view of the world as it was so many miles away. It was a memory that has never left me.


Blogger KGMom said...

Ginnie--what a wonderful memory. Isn't it interesting how, even in the midst of "bad" times, we have such good memories.
I love the photo of you sitting on the arms of two British sailors.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I find this post very poignant for some reason. Thanks Ginnie.

6:54 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

Ginnie, you were SO cute!! I was only 5 when the war ended, so I have few memories of that time, and I certainly didn't get to spend any time with cute guys from Britain! More's the pity!! I am sure that you enriched their lives as they did yours.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

I like the house a lot. And the story is a wonderful one. I look forward to reading many more. I like how you express the past as if it were today.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

If your family home was similar to the one in the photo it was probably known as a late Victorian Queen Anne style home. I owned one in New Hsven when I lived there. They are lovely houses with not of interesting shapes and textures.

9:05 PM  
Blogger possum said...

Oh I love the old house - and your story, of course...
I was born during the war, so I do not remember the brown-out nights. I do remember red cents, war bonds, and air raid drills in school. My grandparents used to send "care" packages to some families in Ireland. All their men folk had been killed in the war. I remember "helping" to pack the boxes. I am sure I was a BIG help!!!! Ah, my poor grandmother...

1:17 PM  
Blogger RoyalTLady said...


I too have a distant relative called Paddi.

No wonder you still look glamorous even today...you were so very pretty then!

9:47 AM  
Blogger Scott W said...

My, how things have changed!

5:42 AM  
Blogger joared said...

I was 9 years old in 1944, missing my 10 years older brother in the U.S. Navy across the ocean in Australia. Our town rarely saw any servicemen, but I still recall the thrill of being asked by a sailor to roller skate with him one Saturday afternoon at the rink.

Loved your memory and your writing told the story so poignantly.

2:50 AM  

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