The Gatherers

The Home Front: The Gatherers There was something in common between the day after the blizzard of 78 and the Home Front during WWII. The blizzard left us with snow so deep that even street signs were covered.There was no way the plows could clear the main roads in one day.In many cases,people could not use their cars and had to walk to do food shopping or get to their jobs.This was something new and different. The feeling that we were all in the same predicament led to a sense of camaraderie.What made the day especially memorable was the friendliness and warmth people had for each other. There was a feeling of unity.

Transfer that day back to the days of WWII and one can get a sense of what it was like to be part of the so-called war effort.The word, Patriotism wasn't used too often but it was there for everyone to feel. Like the blizzard, we were all in the same predicament. Our days and lives were continually exposed to the urgency of the times. Recruitment posters were on almost every unused surface.The songs played on the radio had titles like: Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer. There'll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover The movies featured actors like John Wayne, Robert Taylor, Ronald Reagan who bravely fought "buck-toothed Japs with glasses" who did not adhere to the Geneva Convention of fighting fair.During the show, if the enemy was unusually cruel , it was possible a missile like a golf ball would be thrown at the perpetrator on the screen.

The Home Front had everyone involved. Housewives were encouraged to save all cooking fats . Many kitchens contained coffee cans filled with bacon grease , used lard and other animal fats. About once a week , the Boy Scouts or some other volunteer group would make the rounds to collect the cans or there was a central site to deposit the cans. The purpose was to provide a raw material needed for explosives. When steam is passed through animal fat at high pressure one of the products is glycerin, which can be transformed into TNT.It was hard to fathom that the bombs dropping from Billy Gaquin's B17 were made from kitchen left-overs. Fats weren't the only commodity to come out of the kitchens. In those days, for some reason , aluminum pans were popular.They were not as durable as the type available today and not anywhere near as good as cast iron which most people owned. When the pans developed dents, which was often, they were put aside for collection. It was hard to fathom that John Mullins from Avon High was flying a P-38 made from a pot like my mother used to boil spaghetti. There was a valuable resource available in the fields surrounding the woods.Milkweed. Milkweed secretes a latex material that we were told was useful in the manufacture of life jackets. School kids were given burlap type bags, plastic was unknown , and asked to collect milk weed for the war effort. Our principal, Dr Payton, known as Parky Payton by the kids, suffered from allergies during hay-fever season. Goldenrod was , to him, a poisonous culprit that did not deserve existence. " While you are collecting milkweed today, pull up as much goldenrod as you can and make a big pile. Someone will come along and dispose of it. " Someone, not his someone, thought it would be a good idea to make the pile under his office window. It was also hard to fathom that Ernie Anderson's life at sea on the carrier Wasp , depended on milkweed.