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My View: Life was far different during World War II

By Adele R. Haas

The easy recording of everything today still amazes me. My husband and I were a part of this recently at a family holiday gathering when my grandson, Jonathan, “interviewed” us as my daughter, Catherine, recorded it on a smartphone. Initially it felt awkward, but at least we both looked good; we were dressed in our Sunday best. (Someday will our great-great-grandchildren even know what Sunday best means?)

Jonathan asked where I was born, my father’s occupation, our street address, the schools I attended and the mode of transport. I described a very different Buffalo – streetcars, a family eating meals together daily, church on Sunday and neighborhood shopping at the individual bakery, green grocer and butcher shop. Ice cream was sold only at the ice cream parlor, where a frappe or a double-dip ice cream cone (10 cents) was a special treat for a good report card.

My descriptions of a downtown with movie palaces and admission tickets of a quarter and a free zoo, museum and art gallery were all of a childhood in contrast to his.

My husband and I spoke of taking a boat trip on the Canadiana to another country, without a passport. We recalled rides at Crystal Beach and french fries with vinegar, loganberry to drink and Hall’s suckers in unique flavors.

To reach high school, I took a streetcar downtown, which passed the then always bustling Broadway Market, to Shelton Square, and then rode a Delaware bus to The Nardin Academy, as it was called then, on Cleveland Avenue. We passed privately occupied mansions, the imposing St. Joseph Cathedral at West Utica and continued under the canopy of tall, magnificent elms that met and shaded the avenue. What a ride.

We described a childhood during World War II of trainloads of soldiers using the busy Central Terminal, of rationing and of a polio scare that kept us away from crowds in the summertime.

In our neighborhoods, doors were unlocked, fathers had jobs and mothers worked at home. They were there when we walked home from grammar school for lunch, and when we came back after school at 3. Then we changed into play clothes, did our homework and went outside to play.

We went to the movies on Saturdays and, it seemed, stayed all day. My local theater was called “the dump” (it was not elegant) and cost a nickel. Our cowboy heroes always wore white hats.

We watched the March of Time newsreels, with reports of bombings, and everyone booed at the enemy. Then we watched cartoons and two features. We got home after dark, but Mom was not worried because kidnappings were rare, and there were too many other troubles.

I hope that there is enough room in that cloud where things are stored because there are still a lot of stories to tell and record.

Spirited discussions occurred as my husband and I tried to remember accurately the when and where of events, not unlike when you get together with your siblings and you question their recollections as in “are you sure we were in the same family?” Your memory depends on whether you were the baby, or the offender, or the favorite child in the story being told.

How wonderful to have children and grandchildren who want to know more about their family story – why we love math and singing, or the color blue, or our heights, or our family medical conditions.

We are here because of many, and we are what we are because of them. We are grateful for the good parts. As for the not so good parts, not so much. But we are still here and this is good, even though, as Mom said, “it goes by so quickly.”

Adele R. Haas is a retired dietitian/instructor. She and her husband live in a retirement community in Amherst.
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