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November 24, 2012

1942 wartime home front news on a lighter side

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The Daily Star

---- — Wartime, as hectic and nerve-wracking as it could be on the home front, also had its more amusing times. In the latter months of 1942, Bloomville became a place of respite for soldiers, Delhi got unexpectedly buzzed by warplanes, and war material shortages changed the choices for buying Christmas toys that season.

From Bloomville, The Oneonta Star reported on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1942, “Another contingent of British sailors is expected in this area this week, not as farm help, but for a week’s rest from the rigors of war. Nineteen have been entertained this week and 70 or 75 are expected to arrive on the New York Central mid-day train Wednesday.”

Those volunteering to entertain or host one or a group of these sailors were given an incentive. Provisions had been made with the local rationing boards that the hosts could obtain additional sugar at the rate of one-half pound per person.

The British sailors had been on shipboard one or two years and hadn’t had shore leave in many months. Residents who’d hosted or entertained the sailors were reported to be pleased with their guests.

“One dish the British tars who come to Bloomville had never tasted was pancakes, and they thoroughly enjoyed this traditional American farmer’s breakfast,” the Star reported.

As the nation approached the one-year anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Delhi was a bit on edge, as reported in the Star of Monday, Dec. 7.

“This village buzzed with excitement again Saturday afternoon with the return of the hedgehopping Army fighter plane which had caused such a furor the day before, accompanied by two others.”

“However, it was doubtful if anyone remained indoors. Main street doors burst open and clerks and customers alike dashed to the sidewalks and peered into the sky to see what was going on.”

“‘Some kind of maneuvers,’ was the most commonly advanced theory here after the second visitation of the fighters. After Friday’s episode it was thought that the pilot may have lost his bearings and was trying to identify the village. A few suggested that the pilot might be some area boy in the Army Air corps who was out to give the home folks a thrill, but it was considered unlikely that Uncle Sam’s planes are available for such antics.”

Shoppers that day in Delhi, or elsewhere that month may have been looking for toys, and noticed a few differences in what was available, compared to recent years.

“Metal and labor shortages, civilian protection activities and military operations throughout the world were among the war influences evident yesterday in toy departments of local stores,” it was reported on Saturday, Dec. 12.

“Instead of the usual small red and white cars which children ordinarily pedal around, many will be riding miniature tanks. Potential airplane spotters will begin studying different aircraft on Christmas day when they receive charts containing pictures of all types of planes.”

“Jeeps, guns, tanks and similar articles are made mostly of wood. Fewer fathers will be able to spend Christmas day operating their son’s new metal train set. Just as adults have had to give up cars, children must sacrifice toy autos, since metal could not be sacrificed to make them.”

“The part that women are playing in the war has also been carried out in miniature. Army nurses sets with caps, pins, bandages and the like are on display, as well as doctor bags, including such equipment as stethoscopes.”

On Monday: The men returned from the war and competitive intercollegiate basketball returned in 1947 at the Oneonta State Teachers College.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.