Wartime Memories – life as a teen during World War II
In 1945, students at Maine High School successfully undertook an amazing initiative: selling $500,000 in war bonds to finance a World War II C-54 Skymaster Transport airplane. The aircraft, which still exists today, was made by Douglas Aircraft Company, located on Manheim Road, just west of our city limits.
This effort was the catalyst for our oral history project “Wartime Memories – life as a teen during World War II”. Today’s Maine Township students from Maine East and South interviewed over a dozen Wartime graduates of Maine High School to document their unique experiences.
Check out the documentary today’s students produced, and peruse any of these wonderful individual’s stories. This exhibit was produced by John Murphy, Wartime Memories Coordinator, Vice President Park Ridge Historical Society Laurie Pegler, Past Trustee Park Ridge Historical Society
Ralph’s dad worked at Post office, Perkins Express Moving, working long hours until the 40 hour week was enacted. During the war he worked at the Douglas plant – he managed the tool section. His father also had a contract for Postal Express. Shipments would come in by rail to the Park Ridge Train station and his dad would deliver individual items to residents and businesses.
Prior to the war his family had hard times. They couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage so the mortgage holder, Hardware store owner Mr. Rollof, allowed them to just pay the interest. Once the war started they…
His mom did not work during the war.
He grew up in neighborhood on south part of park ridge. As a kid he played outside most of the time because there was no TV. Played kick the can, baby in the hole.
When his brother went into the war Ralph inherited his car and it needed a great deal of work. For fun they would go to Riverview. They would walk to Edison Park, take a bus down to Belmont in Chicago and then take a street cars to Riverview. They would go on 2 cent rides day. He worked for Downtown Shopping News delivering flyers and they’d have free days at Riverview for the delivery boys. He started work at age 14 or 15.
Ralph heard about the war on the radio. News video was only in newsreels in the movie theaters.
His brother was drafted soon after in ‘42 and received 5 battle stars in New Guinea. His brother worked in supply and had a terrible time with the swampy environment. They hadt 55 gallon drums would sink like quicksand in the earth.
The war impacted in many ways even small. His father had a 1928 LaSalle. The government allowed only one spare tire. His father had his excess tires confiscated. The war severely affected everything. There were blackouts and there were several simulated bombings where Park Ridge was “bombed” with paper bombs to measure accuracy.
His father had an A ration card – which was the lowest allocation card. Eventually he received more since he was a volunteer fireman and they were allocated some gas so they could get to fires. Very little gas was provided. Ralph eventually had a B card because he worked at a defense plant on Meacham – the Busse/Buick garage. ½ of the the dealer was for auto repair, ½ was for the defense plant. He made $.35-$.40 per hour. They packed tool kits for the Army Signal Corps or Navy. They packed 320 lb crates and had to load them onto railroad cars at the Hines lumber yard.
Mr Bredeman Sr. owned it and Ralph was friends with Joe Bredeman Junior who also worked assembling kits.They worked long days and that interfered with any other outside activities. One time he was supposed to play in a softball game at night. Mr. Bredemenan wouldn’t let them leave – they had to load a boxcar by the next morning so they worked through the night loading it.
There was a second defense plant American Totalizer on Touhy that many girls worked at.
Food rationing – meat, grease was rationed. Also shoes were rationed. Shoes had to be pretty worn out before they were eligible to get new ones. They had gardens on the side of the house and also had gardens on across the street North of Stewart. 100 feet by 100 feet garden. Had beets carrots parsley corn. His Mom had vegetabale gardens. Most vacant property was made into victory gardens.
Ralph would hunt where today’s Washington school is. He bagged his first pheasant where the principals office is today. Most of area west of Western ave to Home was Praire. He also shot one rabbit but his Mother had no idea of how to cook it so he didn;t hunt them again. He hunted many squirrels.
Ralph wasn’t allowed to dance. His mother didn’t believe in dancing. He did have a girlfriend from Edison Park. Dating was going to the movies and going to Bangs Lake to the beach on the weekend as well as Riverview and hang out. He double dated a lot.
He had a lot of fun with cars. He had a 33 Graham and rigged it so that it would shock anyone who touched it. He tested it by turning it on and then he touched the chrome bumper. The shock threw him across the floor. He visited his friend Fred Halberg who touched his the door handle and went “yeow” He also put a smoke screen device on his car. He put a kerosene can underneath his seat that led to the engine. He would turn the switch and the kerosene would make a huge cloud. One day at the parking lot at high school and he showed his friend the device. His friend turned it on and a big cloud of smoke started. They drove off onto Dempster and couldn’t turn off the device. The smoke was so bad traffic was stopped. Finally the pulled over and managed to turn it off.
He remembers the German POW camp which was a former CCW camp in the forest preserve. He did not see any of the prisoners. His friend Frank Pesces family had numerous prisoners working for him.
He remembered an assembly at High School for Paul Fleisher who died in the war and was either in class of ‘43 or ‘44. He had played ball with him.
War bonds. The principal at Maine High School challenged the class to raise $300,000 to “buy” a C54. If they raised more than $400,000 the plane could be named. He said that the sale was not hard because people were making good money but there was nothing to spend it on.
He was not able to sell them. because he had to work long hours at the defense plant. His days were long. He went to school at 8AM and left school. Gym, woodshop 2, metalshop 3, Mechanical drawing 1. In woodshop he made a bed, chest of drawers, gun rack. After school he went directly to work and worked until 7PM. He later switched to working at Contour Saw. He made band saws. During shifts they insisted on people taking vitamins. They would stop the production line and hand out vitamins and watch you as you swallowed them.
On VE day he went to celebrate, he and a friend went to lake Wauconda to go fishing.
He tried to enlist in May 1945 but was turned down. He was subsequently drafted in October 1945.
Anita Stewart’s recollection of growing up in the 1940s provides a detailed description of the large victory garden she and her father cultivated. It was located on farmland at Harlem and Higgins, across from her house at 5246 Harlem Avenue in Chicago. In addition to the usual items one would expect in a garden, Anita’s father was well known for the cantaloupe he grew.
By 1944, her family moved to Des Plaines at which time she transferred from Taft to Maine High School. During the mid 1940s, her dad, a WWI veteran, worked at the Douglas Aircraft Company and her mother…
worked at a savings and loan. While attending Maine High School, Anita’s social life was busy with roller skating, working at an ice cream parlor, and traveling to Lake Wauconda, Lake Zurich and Lake Geneva.
Although she was very young at the time, Anita recalls her family sitting in front of the radio when Roosevelt announced the country was at war. Her cousins soon enlisted in the service. Before leaving for the Army, her teenage cousins hitchhiked from Eugene, Oregon to see their relatives in Des Plaines. Closer to home, Anita’s high school classmates helped farmers harvest crops that would have been harvested by men who enlisted in the service. Although food and gas were rationed, the ample fruits and vegetables grown at the family’s victory garden produced more than enough food for the family. Anita’s vivid recollection of a “calamity” at Prince Castle in Des Plaines paints a hilarious picture of teenagers operating a malt machine.
Upon returning from the service, Anita’s cousins and friends went on with their lives, many of them going to college. Anita remains in contact with friends she made while at Maine High School.
Bill Amundsen Grew up 322 Talcott Place and moved at age 15 to 8110 N Merrill and went to Maine High School. Bought a 1930 Ford Coupe to get to school.
Had one brother and parents as well as Grandfather living with them. His brother was 4 ½ years younger. Went to Roosevelt, then Lincoln before going to Maine. Father was export manager of meat packer Swift and Company. His father had a “C” stamps allowing extra gas because they had a war important job. His father…
had a good job all through the depression even though he had several 10% cuts in salary and supported his sisters family as well. He was the General Traffic Manager for their subsidiary International Packers. He shipped frozen meat worldwide.
Bill bought the model a for sixty five dollars to get around Park Ridge. One time during the war he ran out of gas. Oscar E Carlson paint store on Main was his rescue. He bought paint thinner benzene to fill up his car and it ran very well. He told a friend who had a 1931 Cord sedan who tried it but the benzene destroyed the engine.
When the war broke out Bill was listening to Gracie Fields singing The Biggest Aspidistra (tree) in the World when the announcer broke in that Pearl Harbor was bombed. He worked for Northwest awning hanging awnings and drove a Model A pickup truck for them. During the war frames for awnings weren’t available. He’d have to buy pipe to make frames for awnings.
Other than radio and newspapers he would get news of the war from Pathe’ newsreels at the movies.
Everyone including his father had to register for the draft. His Dad was 48 at the time and was concerned he’d get called up – especially since he’d had a desk job for years. He was not drafted nor was Bill. After the war Bill joined the Navy Reserve and went on active duty for a few weeks during Korea.
During high school he and friends would skinny dip in the pond of a sand quarry on the way home from school. North of Dee Rd there was a stream they’d also swim in.
In the neighborhood On Talcott ave – you could go from Devon to a riding stable just north of Montrose – no houses were on it. Neither did the East side of Vine street. They’d make baseball diamonds there and play kick the can as well.
He remembers one of the stricktest teachers Ms. Perrolini who taught English. During tests you had to have 5 sharpened pencils because if you broke one you’d have plenty of spares. She was very effective in grammar and english.
After the war started Bill’s Dad was a block captain. He had a flashlight and hardhat. Periodically there would have a blackout and his father would go out with his helmet and flashlight to inspect for compliance.
Bill had another part-time job at Eagle Food Market and Hendersons Drug Store. They sold cigarretes which were rationed during the war. When they would get a shipment people would hear about it and line up at the register for them. He’d turn around so much to sell them he’d get dizzy. They were 15 cents a pack then. Around the corner at Eagle food mart he’d deliver groceries for them. On Saturday they’d have a man make donuts. He had an alchohol problem. Bill would go to his little shack on Oakton street and bang on his door and bring him in. They were the best donuts. Then Bill got a job at Jewel in Edison Park, packing and filling the vegtable bins.
Although there was rationing they adapted – they have a victory garden in an vacant lot next door they shared with another neighbor. They raised corn. They also had chickens in a coop in the back yard. Across the alley was all vacant – water would freeze and they’d ice skate on it.
At times when you’d run out of ration stamps for gas you could get black market gas at Nagle and Northwest highway. He went there a few times. He had to pay a premium to get it.
He lost a few friends who were killed during the war. One of his best friends was over in Europe and served there but survived.
His father-in-law built planes at the Douglas plant. He doesn’t remember about the bond drive.
They would collect cooking grease and cans and donate them during the war.
He had a girlfriend in high school and they’d go to beach parties at Lake Michigan. He always had someone to go to the show with on Saturday nights. He also would go down to Riverview. He came home with 8 kids on the front seat of the car coming home. His girlfriend had to shift for him it was so crowded. He also did alot of things with his church Edison Park Lutheran church. He belonged to the Luther league and he sponsored it after high school.
They would often go to the Spa ice cream parlor Touhy east of Prospect.
At VJ day he and his cousin went down to State Street and it was wall-to-wall people. Sailors were kissing everyone. Everyone was elated.
At the end of school Bill had no plans for college. His pastor came over on a Tuesday and by Friday Bill was on a train to St. Olaf’s college.
During the war everyone was concerned about the war casualties. They were moderately concerned about being attacked but especially concerned about a Japanese attack on the west coast. But overall they went on with their lives. We were lucky – we didn’t suffer the pangs of war that Europe and Russia had. As a teen they were concerned but not afraid.
Bob Peacock. Born in 1930. Class of 1948 420 s Greenwood & Stewart. Father built house in 1922 He went to Lincoln School K-8.
Father was a WWI veteran born in 1896 in Winchester . Goshen MO 1895 Met in DC and married in 1922. He was born in 1930 at the height of the depression. Father graduated in 1925 from Northwestern and bought a car the month before he was born. Father worked for Illinois Bell they were average middle class. His Mom was a homemaker. Always went on vacations. They didn’t have alot of money but they lived a normal life…
Grew up in a fun typical middle class Park Ridge neighborhood. Had lots of empty lots that they would play hide and seek, dig trenchs. When he was eight, on a dare, drove his parents Model A in the driveway. He used to bike up to Hinkley and swim there. At Crescent and Delphia there was a low berm that the city would flood on purpose and they would ice skate. He would have lunch at Nicks rarely during 7th and 8th grade and get hamburgers. It was a big treat. He would go to Riverview and would get a season pass. With hiis friend Ralph Bishop put on a one act circus with
He got up in in December 7th and was standing on the heat vent in his home when his parents told him that the Japanese bombed WWII. He realized Wow we were in a war. He noticed his parents were very grave when he was given the news.
He had an older brother who missed the war because he was classified 4f. A number of neighbors were killed in the war. Mickey Fitzpatrick and Bob Dousing were killed. He saw plenty of blue stars and some gold stars in the windows. A gold star indicated the person died in the war. A blue star indicated that someone in the family was in the service.
At school – the war didn’t seem to affect them much. He felt it more when neighbors were casualties. Everything was old at school because everything was going to the war effort. Their school bus was a 1919 bus.
At home they were affected by meat and gasoline rationing. When they wanted to go on trips his father would scrounge up various ration cards. There was one gas station that sold black market gas. When he was 16 – his Dad would tell him to “Go get some 50 cents gas” at the black market station. (Gas then was normally 15 cents a gallon).
His father was a block warden for the Civil Defense. He wore the helmet when he made his rounds ensuring the wartime blackout regulations were enforced.
They had food ration books and they’d have to take a stamp out to buy food.
His first job was working at a store at Western and Crescent run by Art Hansen. Owned by the Cappys and sold Brandt Dairy milk.
During school he and his friends formed a group or gang called the “Big six”. Most of his friends were athletes. His friend Ralph Bishop was good with his hands. They would get together on weekends and play cards or play touch football or just hang out.
Occasionally they would get in trouble. In Park Ridge, overnight, stop signs would appear. He and his friends didn’t like it. After hanging out with friends and listening to jazz music they’d go and saw them down and stuffed them in an attic.. It made the newspapers. They were known as the “Park Ridge Firsters”.
He would go to big dances and afterwards to to the Ye Olde Cellar downtown where they had big bands and dancing.
For volunteer work they would pick up newspapers in trucks for the war effort. He didn’t recall assemblies announcing casualties. He worked driving a forklift at the Douglas plant.
He remember going door-to-door freshman year selling bonds. Some people were very receptive and would invite Bob in to their home while they came up with the money. Some people were not very receptive. He felt that Norm Olson was the leader of the effort.
When VE day came he was in Mr. Robinsons woodworking class and he was relieved and quite happy. He didn’t remember any huge celebrations just tremendous relief. He felt the same at VJ day.
He remembers overall during the war that he wasn’t me personally very affected by the war. He had a good life even though the war was going on. He still sees some of high school friends. The only pain was knowing knowing older neighbors dying in the war.
After high school he was not interested in going to college and took a semester off to harvest wheat in North Dakota. He then enrolled in the University of Illinois extension at Galesburg where he majored in Sales Advertising & Marketing.
Growing up on the north side of Park Ridge, Clarence Herbst was an extremely busy teenager when the war began. Despite questioning his own athletic abilities, he fondly recalled engaging in track, swimming, football and baseball while a student at Maine.
While his father was fortunate to maintain steady employment during the depression and later, he was a workaholic and forfeited opportunities to attend Clarence’s football games and do other family activities. As recalled by Clancy regarding his social life, he and…
his pals had an old saying, “we don’t smoke and we don’t chew and we don’t go with the girls that do.” Other activities included being a lifeguard at Hinkley Pool, Christmas-time work for the Railway Express downtown Chicago, delivering the Park Ridge Herald, and tending to the family’s vegetable garden on Eastman Avenue.
Remarkably, Clarence is still in regular contact with friends he made in kindergarten! Currently, Clarence is very active with Avenues to Independence.
CLINTON & DOROTHY WEST
Dorothy West’s Dad worked for a LaSalle and then Citizens Bank, Mom was a homemaker. Here older sister joined the WAC’s. Her parents consented because they thought she was frail. She came bounding back after the interview and exclaimed that she had three weeks to get her affairs in order. She went to Officers Training and was stationed in Camp Tyson in Tennessee. Here sister married a soldier there. They trained and use Military Blimps.
She was writing in Christmas Cards on December 7th upstairs in her room…
and she heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor was bombed. She thought maybe it was an Orson Welles hoax but her father assured it was true.
She grew up in small town atmosphere in Des Plaines where you knew everyone. It seemed everyone was biased against the flood of workers coming to work at the Douglas plant and moving in to town. The atmosphere changed.
Maine East was the country club of high schools. There was golf, a plane and even a rifle range in the basement.
Clintons father was an aircraft mechanic. His mother was a school teacher in Des Plaines. He moved around alot as a child even lived on a river boat in Des Plaines.
Dorothy didn’t have any major difficulties with her families finances. Clintons father always had work so they were fine. When he moved to Des Plaines everyone would ask him to talk to hear his accent. He was surprised at the cold and would get up early to stoke the furnace with coal. Getting ready was difficult. The coal furnance would go out at the end of the night. They also had to heat up the hot water.
Dorothy’s family had a flag in the window with a blue star showing a family member was in the service. A man stopped by and asked to rent a room since he assumed with a family member in the service that they would have a spare one. He said he worked in security for Douglas Aircraft. His father agreed and the man stayed with them in her old room. He was with the FBI. One day she got a call from the Chicago police who asked if this man was staying with you. They had recovered a body out the Chicago river with this mans ID. An hour and half later the man walked in and said that there was just a mixup.
Dorothy had glasses and braces and was a little intimidated by that. She and her friends would go shopping in Evanston. We would go to Carsons to buy books for $1. After she started working and heard stories of hardship from friends she then realized about the depression.
She collected grease from cooking and brought to the butcher. Gas was rationed, even in shoes. They cut back on trips. In order to go to Wisconsin they had to borrow ration cards to make the trip from the neighbor who worked for the phone company. Their relatives had a summer home near Lake Wausau in Wisconsin that had a huge victory gardens. She was shocked to see the her first chicken slaughtered. Her mother canned and because of that they received a 100 lbs of sugar and they would go to Michigan to get the fruit.
Clinton didn’t mind rationing because he saw abject poverty and it didn’t bother them. Dorothy said there were alot of strange recipes that they used to adapt with vegtable such as squash and mushrooms instead of meat.
Dorothy had two sets of friends she hung out with. One was bookish and another frivolous. They rode the bus together and gossiped every ride.
Clinton went to dances and Dorothy’s friend asked Clinton to go to girls choice
Clinton went through several high schools around the country including Texas. He came to Maine where everyone was much more civilized.
Dorothy said they didn’t feel much impact of the war but only realized it through newsreals. When she was fifteen she worked downtown in the summer for an import/export firm typing Spanish form letters. She had to screen potential employees or business partners against a list of know Nazi sympathisers. She found one or two matches. She was paid $25 per month. She tried but didn’t like waitressing.
Her friends had waitress jobs at the Douglas plant. They were paid $.65 per hour.
When VE day happened they closed the office and her office all went down on Madison where everyone was cheering and hugging and then they moved on to the Palmer House’s Empire room. They all had drinks except for her since she was underage.
Clinton found out about the time the atomic bomb was dropped over Japan by reading over a mans shoulder on the train. After first he misread that we lost the war but to his relief it was the US who had dropped the bomb.
He joined the Army Air Corp in 1946 and worked on C54’s and was stationed in Newfoundland in Canada.
Dorothy and Clinton both stamps but did not sell any bonds
After graduation Dorothy eventually went to business school and worked for a railroad when she was 19.
They finally got together at a church social. Dorothy said Clinton was the catch of the day. He said he had a choice and chose her and they have been happily married for 53 years.
Dorothy thinks that during the war they were much more naive than todays kids who she feels are much better informed.
NANCY WELTY CLARK
Summary coming soon
I was an only child. So I got the whole back seat to myself in the car. My father was a salesman. My mother was a homemaker. We grew up with my grandparents because, although it was never discussed, I am quite sure we went broke during the war- I am sorry, during the Depression. We moved an awful lot. I was born in North Dakota. We moved in with the grandparents in Des Plaines when I was four, I think. From there I went into kindergarten in Des Plaines. From there we moved to Yonkers, New York and I did first grade.
MARCIA GUNDERSON & JOANN SEABURY
Marcia lived and worked in Park Ridge up until 2011 when she moved to Arbor Village in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Attending Maine reunions and keeping in touch with her classmates has always been important to Marcia. In March of 2013, John Murphy, Vice President of the Park Ridge Historical Society and Laurie Pegler, also of the Historical Society, interviewed Marcia about what it was like growing up in Park Ridge during the years of WWII. Also present at the interview was former classmate and fellow resident at…
Arbor Village, Joanne Seabury Erickson.
Marcia has a very clear recollection of the day she and her brother heard that our country was at war: That Sunday, she recalled, they were at the show … the Pickwick … it cost a dime … they interrupted the movie to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor. Outside the theater, everyone was talking about it. Life soon changed at Marcia’s house; her father and brother entered the military while she and her Mom began working.
While Marcia’s father served in the Navy, her older brother entered the Army. “It was terrible. You just had to do what you had to do; you took on other jobs. Butter, sugar, shoes, gas, … were almost unheard of; it was a real treat to have sugar bread! Mom made ends meet by making our clothes. I had only one dress for Sunday School; one pair of shoes; I’m sure they must have sold things to get money for groceries.” She recalls the stamps for food and gas allotted to each family. In addition to her parents and older brother, Marcia had one sister who died at 9 days of age and a brother who was 6 years old when he died.
Before her Dad entered the Navy, he was a policeman. He was paid in scrip instead of real money. Money was always in short supply; she recalls that from the time she was 13 years of age, her parents never bought her another piece of clothing; she bought her own clothes. One time, her father brought home tickets for her and her brother to go to the circus. She recalled that there was always an aunt or a cousin living with her family. Eventually, her parents lost their house, due in all likelihood to financial distress.
Marcia had several jobs as a teenager: Robinson’s Ice Cream; a department of defense facility on Northwest Highway; she worked other places too. She was so pleased to bring her paycheck home to her Mother because she knew she was contributing to the household in her Father’s absence. Each payday, she brought her Mother her favorite treat: Fannie May Pixies!
While at Maine, Marcia was not involved in the program to raise funds for the Maine Flyer but she had a specific recollection of the effort by the students. She was aware of Joanne Seabury’s participation in the drive and recalled that Joanne won an award for selling the most bonds. Dancing to the jitterbug at lunchtime was one of her fond memories from her Maine days.
Writing “V-Mail” letters to soldiers was very important: Marcia wrote to her Dad, her brother, her cousin and others in the service. Classmates enlisted in the service while still students or recent graduates of Maine. School Assemblies were held to memorialize students who were killed in action. With much anguish, Marcia recalled her classmate: “Remember the Schieble boy? Oh, he was such a good looking young man! Oh, I really can’t talk about this…” [ed.: Robert F. Schieble (Navy). Enlisted in May, 1943. Killed in action in Philippines October 24, 1944].
Everyone had a “Victory Garden” in their yard. Beans, tomatoes, and the like were grown and the extras were canned. Marcia recalled the rationing of everything from sugar, butter, flour, coffee, eggs and shoes.
While working on an army base in San Francisco, Marcia remembers hearing that the war was officially over: “the day it [the news] came, the sky was azure blue — beautiful — all of a sudden, I heard them playing taps — so you could take the color of the sky and music and it was very moving … one of those things you don’t forget … and the war to end all wars….”
Marcia’s Dad came home from the war shortly before the armistice was signed; her brother came home right after that. When they came home, things were back to business as usual; there were no parades. They just put their lives back together. They felt very patriotic! President Roosevelt was a “big deal” to Marcia and her family: “I hung on every word!”
After graduation, Marcia went right to work. She has such a clear recollection of one day at her office, Sebastian Real Estate. Frank Yonan, the eye doctor, came in to see Don Sebastian. Marcia said to the girls, “that was Mr. Yonan. He survived the Baton Death March.” They said, “Who?” Marcia lamented: “They didn’t have a clue … that disturbed me.”
As far as her recollection of teachers at Maine, she clearly recalled Ms. Perolini! Maine did a fine job teaching students how to relate to each other.
As a final refection, both Marcia and Joanne marveled at their good fortune of striking up a friendship nearly 70 years after graduating from Maine High School!
Robert lived at 317 North Merrill Avenue. My dad was a banker. My mother was a housewife. We were members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. A member of the boy scouts, he recalls frequent campouts with just the boys – the adults were all working. The boys had to do the shopping for their meals and pool their ration stamps. Robert remembers riding the bus with his rifle team and all of their rifles. Something not very likely today.
Robert Henry James Lin has lived in Park Ridge since the age of 6. He lived at 242 Gillick with his two twin brothers, Charles and Thomas, his mother and his father, who worked at DuPont Chemical Company. His family was able to manage during the depression, since his father had a good job as a sales manager with DuPont, despite never finishing high school. Robert was on the football and basketball teams at Maine High School, and had a steady girlfriend all throughout high school. His time was spent mainly playing sports, attending school events like dances, and going to the movies at the Pickwick and sometimes…
in Chicago. He had a job at the Park Ridge Country Club and remembers that it was easy to get a job since so many adult males were in the service. He also worked at an ice cream parlor, for .25 cents per hour.
Bob remembers December 7, 1941 as the day he was listening to the Bears game on the radio, which was interrupted with a news announcement that Japan was bombing Pearl Harbor. He remembers President Roosevelt declaring war on Japan the next day. His family adapted to the war with rations on food and gas, and they planted a Victory Garden behind his garage, which helped to supply additional food for his family. His family ate more vegetables and less steak due to rations.
Bob remembers the Des Plaines Prisoner of War camp, which held German prisoners during the war. They wore uniforms and mostly did agricultural work and he doesn’t remember anyone being shot or captured.
Life during the war was focused on the war effort, with news about the war coming from the newspapers and radio. His best friend at Maine High School was in charge of the effort to sell war bonds to fund the “Maine Flyer”. The whole school was bused to the airfield to look at the plane with the words “Faster and Higher, that’s the Maine Flyer.” He didn’t feel particularly afraid of the war, since it was being fought overseas and not on American soil. He remembers a farm next to Maine High School that grew food for the high school cafeteria, on the land that is now Lutheran General hospital.
Rather than wait to be drafted at age 18 in 1944, Bob and two of his buddies skipped school and hitchhiked to Chicago in order to sign up for the Marines at age 17. By signing up early, he was able to choose which branch of service he wanted to enlist. His father received a phone call from the Marines on the day he enlisted and he was furious but eventually supported Bob’ enlistment. He had served in combat in France during WWI, but avoided talking about his war experiences. After enlisting, Bob was able to finish high school and then served the Marines by writing for one of their newspapers, which surprised him since he didn’t have any writing skills. But that experience turned into a career choice for him as he later became an advertising copywriter. His brothers served in the Army and Navy and were shipped overseas. All of his friends and family survived the war.
After graduation he went to college James Billiken, Northwestern and Loyola.