Wartime Tribulations by June Flori

Everyone had to help …

During WW II, everyone pitched in to do their share. My oldest sister, Evelyn, the nurse, joined the Army Nurse Corps. She didn’t want to join the Navy Nurse Corps because she was afraid of water. Ironically, she ended up on the hospital ship Dogwood.

The Dogwood

Her entire two years of duty in the army was spent on the ocean traveling back and forth from Boston to England transporting the wounded back to the States.

I also did my part. Two afternoons a week I would take the trolley from Mt. Pleasant High School to Kennedy Plaza, Exchange Place. I walked to the Loews State Theatre, (now Providence Performing Arts), and go in a side door on the right of the building. A small elevator took me to the second floor. In a large room were long tables with chairs.

Women volunteers had me wash my hands thoroughly and then wrap cloths around my head so that no hair would fall and contaminate my work. There were large piles of gauze squares on the table that had to be folded in exactly the right size for bandages. It was time- consuming, tedious work because each bandage had to be precise. I would stay for one to two hours and would probably make two to three dozen bandages. This was called “rolling bandages”.

Everything was rationed … gasoline, sugar, coffee, butter, meat and even silk stockings. If you were lucky enough to own a pair of silk stockings, they were precious. If they ever got a run, there was a place in the city where you could bring them to be repaired. The run was fixed with no sign it ever existed. It was fascinating to me that someone knew how to do this. Silk stockings became less precious with the introduction of nylon.

Of course, there was the black market. If you knew someone that could get you something without rationing, you were lucky. A lot of money was passed “under the table.” The black market became a lucrative business for some.

My two older sisters married servicemen; one, in the Army, the other in the Navy. When the one in the Navy got shipped out and the one in the Army was stationed too far away, both sisters returned home to have their babies. It was chaos. I don’t know how my poor mother coped with the situation. My niece was colicky and cried day and night for months. My oldest sister, who had just finished her tour of duty in the Army, was taking a course out of state and had to be called home to help.

I got lost in the shuffle, and it was then I realized I had to take care of myself, be independent and concentrate on my final year in high school so I could get to Boston College. I learned to compartmentalize.

All this was going on while my father was slowly losing his battle with cancer in the upstairs bedroom.

© 2018

By | 2018-10-12T14:06:24+00:00 November 8th, 2018|Stories of the 1940's and 1950's|11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Peter Voccio JR. November 8, 2018 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    I remember those days as a 10 year old boy when the war ended in 1945. Many of the young men in our town served. Unfortunately we lost some of those young men. I remember my father would always give a serviceman a ride if he saw them walking on the road. I remember the square flag hanging in the windows of homes some with a gold star. I also remember the gas ration with the sticker on the windshield. I also remember the headlights on autos were painted black on the top to keep everything as dark as possible. June, hats off to you and your family for serving. The 10 year old boy served in the United States Army 1954-1956 station in Ulm, Germany for 18 months

    • Ed November 8, 2018 at 9:49 pm - Reply

      Wonderful memories. Were there air raid wardens in your neighborhood?

  2. Peter Voccio JR. November 8, 2018 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Ed,

    Yes, Mr. Poulton, lived three houses from ours. He wore a white helmet. I remember my mother would always pull the shades down and curtains closed.

    • Ed November 8, 2018 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Yes, at the air raif’s horn, we closed the curtains and shut the lights. We kids always peeked and saw the air raid warden walking the street.

  3. Peter Voccio JR. November 8, 2018 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    Ed,
    Except for the war, as a child I have pleasant memories of the 40s and 50s

  4. Raymond Amore November 12, 2018 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    My Uncle Billy was a Marine island-hopper in the Pacific Theater. He was shipped home after taking two sniper bullets through his helmet where he always carried a picture of his mother and sister. I still remember seeing that bloody picture. Poor Billy fought the war every night at home – every night for years..
    I have another story about a great friend who was a nose gunner on a B-29 flying out of Burma into China to bomb the Japanese…but it may be too upsetting for readers who think that the world is orderly and just. I can write it on another post and you, Ed, can decide if it should be posted. Lmk.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      It is history we need to know, Ray. Yes, personal stories can be difficult, but paying homage is critical and necessary. Thank you.

  5. Janice DiMeo November 12, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    I remember when I was 14 years old I volunteered at Providence lying in hospital. I had to fold all the gauze into 3×3 squares, 10 to a pack, to the steroids. A bunch of us sat at a long table for few hours in the afternoon.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:52 pm - Reply

      Great efforts by many as our Country ‘pulled together’ on so many fronts and in so many ways, Janice. Thank you.

  6. Joe Kernan November 12, 2018 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    I was born in 1944, so I don’t remember it well. I do remember that butter was still expensive and scarce and I remember my mother kneading a plastic bag until a dot of red dye transformed white fat into yellow margarine. I learned later that this was supposed to keep unscrupulous grocers from selling margarine as butter.

    • Ed November 12, 2018 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Joe. I was not aware of the margarine story. But I do remember the air raid wardens patrolling the street in front of our house on Wealth Avenue in Providence during the War.

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