Larchmont Gazette
1942 Year in Review

Year in Review interprets Larchmont history year by year. Larchmonters speak for themselves through news reports, pictures, and official documents.

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World War II Comes to Larchmont

By Paul Andersen

As a 2nd grader, I didn't have much of a grasp of the world situation in 1941. I had seen newsreels at the movies that showed bombers and tanks destroying homes, buildings, and injuring and killing people, for reasons I could not comprehend. My grandfather's 7 P.M. ritual was to turn on the radio and listen to H. V. Kaltenborn and the News. No one could interrupt or talk while the news was on or he would receive a glare from grandpa. After the news, he would try to tell me what was happening, but I still did not have a grasp of the situation, as I didn't feel it could affect me in any way.

On Monday, December 8, 1941 on the school playground before class, some of the kids were talking about the Japanese attacking American ships in a place called Pearl Harbor. We had no idea of where Pearl Harbor was and could not wait to get into Miss Harrison's class so she could tell us about Pearl Harbor. After doing the Pledge Of Allegiance to the flag, which was shortly changed from taking your hand off your heart after saying "to the flag" and extending your arm to the flag (because it so closely resembled the Nazi Salute), Miss Harrison showed us on the map where Pearl Harbor was, and spent the better part of the morning trying to explain to us the world situation and the circumstances which brought about the attack. At that time we did not have any idea as to what the effect the war would have on us or on Chatsworth School or the Village of Larchmont.

Within a short time it became evident that many changes were in store. All over school, and in every store window and on every billboard, there were signs saying, "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR." Kids were talking about their dads and older brothers signing up for the military.

Every student in school was given a colored tag, designating an area of the village where they lived; it was on a string and while in school was worn around your neck. It had your name, address, and who could be reached in case of an emergency. The policy was, in case of an air raid, that all students would be evacuated to areas (which were designated by the color on your neck tag) of the Village where parents or someone would meet you to take you home so you could take shelter in your own home.

Every morning before class, War Bonds and Stamps would be on sale and classes had contests to see who bought the most. Also, lists were posted that showed what so many books of stamps or bonds would purchase, such as planes, tanks, guns and materials needed for the war effort.

Soon things were getting scarce in the stores and meat, butter, sugar and food rationing stamps and coupons were issued to allow for a fair allotment to everyone. Shoes and certain clothing also were put on the rationing system, as well as auto gasoline. New auto tires were not available, and old ones would be re-treaded. For adults, cigarettes became a scarcity and new brands, such as "Spuds" or "Wings," would sometimes be seen. Whenever scarce items became available there would be lines at the stores or at the gas pumps. I can really say that no one suffered or starved because of the food rationing or "meatless Tuesdays." Our mothers were very resourceful, and the government supplied a great variety of "war- time" menus for substitute meals.

Because of rationing of food, I was given several jobs; one being the mixing of the oleomargarine that came in a plastic type bag with an inner packet that contained yellow coloring. You squeezed the inner bag till it broke, and then you kneaded the whole bag until the margarine turned yellow. You then reshaped the bag and then put it back in the refrigerator to harden back into a square. All cooking fats were saved, either to be used again, or put in cans to be returned to the butcher for plastic coin-like coupons, that had the same value as ration coupons. It was my job to bring the fat back to the butcher. I was also given the job of collecting all the soap scraps from the bath and kitchen sinks and putting them in a little cage-like container with a handle which then I would shake back and forth in the dish pan water to make suds for washing the dishes. Another job was to save cans. After a can was opened, my job would be to rinse it out, remove the label, cut-out the opposite end of the can, put both ends of the can put inside the can, and then flattened the can by stepping on it sealing the ends inside. Then it would either be returned to the store or put into scrap bins placed allover the Village. The bins would be painted red, white and blue with three sections, one for metal, one for rubber, and one for cloth. Boy scouts would collect bundled newspapers and magazines and place them along side these receptacles

The items that children missed the most during the war era were: ice cream, candy and bubble gum, primarily because of the scarcity of sugar and chicle for the gum. Again, our mothers gave us fruits, which were available, and probably were better for us. Once in a while, The Larchmont Sweet Shop would be able to make ice cream when its allotment of sugar was available. I don't know how we knew this was happening, but there would be lines outside waiting for their one scoop cone limit, and it was only a nickel.

Rationing and the scarcity of items caused a drastic change to many businesses in Larchmont. Many autos were put up on blocks to preserve the tires and to storage the car for the "duration." Gasoline rationing would limit car owners to very little travel. If you needed the car for use that was war-effort related, such as defense travel or work, your gas allotment was larger and you had a different stamp in your windshield. Pleasure driving was a "no-no," so many car owners put their cars away for the "duration" and used buses and public transportation. Those cars that remained on the road had the top half of their headlights painted black to prevent shining up so they could be seen from above by enemy aircraft. The curtailment of auto use had a tremendous impact on the Manor Garage: gas sales were almost nonexistent, car parts were no longer available for repair work, and tires were no longer available.
Because of this lack of business, Peter Lindeman was forced to lay off many workers at the Manor Garage. Fortunately, my father was not one of them. The Larchmont Fire Chief at the time, Alex Cuneen, was also the Fire Chief at the Fort Slocum Army Post on an island off near-by New Rochelle, and he was able to get my father a civilian mechanic’s supervisory position at the base motor pool, paying twice the salary Peter Lindeman offered. Unfortunately, at the young age of 32, my father suffered his first heart attack in the Fort Slocum Hospital while taking his physical which was required for his new government job. As a result, he received a 4-F draft registration and did not have to serve in the military. However, he did not get the government job either.

As bad as business became on the auto end at the Manor Garage, Peter Lindeman took advantage of the increased use of bicycles. One of the vacant stores along side of the Manor Garage was turned into a bicycle repair and resale shop. It was a brilliant move because he had no competition during the duration of the war and the store had been vacant, and soon a very successful business was created.

Changes were soon to be seen all over the Village. Public buildings had their windows taped so glass would not shatter. Some windows were painted black so that light might not shine through at night and during air raid drill "black-outs." Stores no longer would light their show windows at night to conserve electricity. Street lamps had lower wattage bulbs installed and lamps that had globes that faced the sky were painted black. All homes had heavy drapes and curtains so as not to let light shine out at night. Buckets of sand were in every home in case of incendiary bomb attack, as well as civilian defense issued, water pump fire extinguishers. People were signing up for Civilian Defense duty as air-raid wardens, ambulance drivers, nurse's aids, and firefighters as a supplement to the Fire Department and administrative and government coordinators, all of whom had white helmets with the "CD" logo and wore armbands, which designated their duties. Sirens where placed allover the Village to alert residents in case of an air raid. Both day and night drills were held to train the "CD" people as to their duties. When these occurred, the siren would alert everyone to get off the street and inside to the safest part of the building, traffic would come to a halt and the air-raid wardens would report to their posts or neighborhoods to insure that everyone was inside, and if it was at night to insure that no lights could be seen thru curtains or drapes. If the warden saw light, he would blow his whistle and shout "cover-up or turn out your lights." My father, as a volunteer fireman, would report to the fire house and his engine and the other fire trucks would be dispatched to various areas of the village so as not to concentrate them in one area in case of attack Also several small trailers with pumps and firefighting equipment supplied by the government were hooked up to designated trucks and manned by the "CD" firefighters. Karl Leitzow, would clean out his delivery truck and head for one of the "aid stations" where he would be dispatched as an ambulance to pick up the injured.
The war and the movies had a tremendous effect on the manner in which we played. The old Quaker Cemetery was our battlefield, sunken graves were foxholes and bomb craters, gaps in the stonewall became cockpits of fighter planes and bombers. We would make instrument panels out of cardboard boxes and steering wheels out of the bottom of peach baskets nailed to a broomstick. Large boxes became tanks and smaller boxes would be used as turrets. We also would play out the movies we had just seen, such as, "Gung Ho", "Wake Island', "Battaan" and "30 Seconds over Tokyo". We all had guns made from the wood of old vegetable crates from the Finast Supermarket around the comer. We would get someone to draw a machine gun, pistol, or whatever, and Karl Leitzow would cut it out for us on his band saw. Johnnie Saporito of the Hogan Alley gang had a great "tommy" gun made for him by Mr. Joyce, the superintendent of his building, the only bad thing being, Mr. Joyce had painted the gun red, white, and blue. It looked a little corny, otherwise it was great and Johnnie would never change it.

The movies had a great propaganda effect, in their ability to make and stir up a patriotic fervor in everyone so that even as children we knew that what America was doing was right in saving the world from oppression and helping our allies.
It was funny, but whenever we acted out movies we had just seen, we would all take assumed names. Johnnie DeCicco was always "Joe," Frannie Ehret was "Jim," I was "Bill," but Bobbie Jones stayed "Bob." I guess we thought we were into the situation more than just playing, so we had to be more like Robert Taylor, Brian Donlevy or the star of the movie.

Along side the Quaker Cemetery, there was a large woods, and also woods next to Hogans Alley, that was our “jungle," in which we had to hack out trails to get to the "enemy". We would build huts, on the ground and sometimes in the trees where we kept our supplies and had our rations (sandwiches, supplied by our moms).

During the war years there were many vacant houses in Larchmont, from families who had moved to be near loved ones or job relocations for the war effort, and we would play in these houses, whether it is war games or plain "hide and seek." The houses would be open, all the utilities turned off, and we would play in them openly, and we were only rarely chased away by neighbors or the police. However, we never damaged anything, broke a window, marked walls, and there was no such thing then as graffiti (it never entered our minds). In fact, when we left the building we made sure all the windows and doors were closed to prevent weather damage. The neighbors knew who we all were, so if there were to be any problems, we knew we would be brought to account for them.

Weekly assembly programs in Chatsworth School took on a patriotic flavor, starting with the Pledge Of Allegiance, and then the singing of the "Medley:" America the Beautiful, God Bless America, Columbia the Gem of the Ocean, and ending with My Country ‘Tis Of Thee. Sometimes the father or older brother or sister of a student who was home on leave from the military, or even sometimes a civic leader, would visit our class and talk about the war effort or patriotism. Movies would be shown about how industry was converting from civilian products to war related needs or how scrap drives were started and what the scrap was used for. But war scenes, such as shown in newsreels were not shown, nor any form of military violence. ill the auditorium hung a huge victory flag with one large blue star, representing former students who were serving in the military, with numbers in blue designating how many were serving, later gold stars would be added to designate those who were killed in the service of their country.

The skies over Larchmont were even changing. Besides the occasional airliner or old bi-plane, squadrons of fighters and bombers in training or in transit would almost blacken the sky. If you went down to Manor Park, you could watch the patrol planes and the sea planes practicing landings on Long Island Sound. Also the "P. T ." boats and the patrol boats that were built in Rye and on City Island being tested up and down the Sound. In New Rochelle a Canadian Torpedo Boat was stationed to pick up their new boats and train with them on the Sound. One could also see on the Long Island side of the Sound, the lines of tankers and transports waiting to get into New York Harbor or waiting to form convoys for the long trip to Murmansk or England. Bobbie and Walter Jones' older brother, Buddie, and his friend, Bob Knickerbocker, joined the Merchant Marine together and took their training at Sheepshead Bay, in Brooklyn. They later made several runs to Russia and were fortunate not to have been torpedoed, but ships around theirs were sunk and they took on survivors.

Traffic on the Post Road was steadily increasing, large trailers with steel, drums, iron beams, lumber, and tanker trucks with various petroleum products were a constant daily stream. Whenever we would hear the sound of a siren we would run to the Post Road to see what was coming next, the local police would be alerted that special trucks or convoys would be coming through so that they could set up road blocks to assist the convoys through the Village. Military convoys always had their own Military Police jeeps with machine guns blocking off the main intersections so no other vehicles could break in or impede the flow of the convoy.

One particular day, we saw on a huge Navy truck, one of the two-man Japanese submarines captured at Pearl Harbor, on its way to the Navy submarine base at Groton, Connecticut. Some of the convoys would take an hour to pass through, especially those containing trucks, fighter planes, gliders, artillery pieces, jeeps, gliders and tanks. There would be convoys of military buses and trucks loaded with troops who would return our waves and the cheers of people who watched as they passed by. At the time, we did not know that this was the build up for the invasion of Europe. Also, at the time it never dawned on us that many of these brave soldiers who waved would never come back

Every available vacant lot, and back yard, was made into "Victory" gardens where vegetables were grown for home use and for canning. People living in apartments would draw lots for garden spaces in various vacant lots and the local "CD" office monitored them. Seed packets were sold in the schools along with directions on how to start, plant and maintain the gardens. The Village made fire hydrants available so water could be brought to the gardens. One of the plots in the large area along side the Post Office was planted by a Japanese family, the Matsumotos, whose son was in my class at Chatsworth School. The plot had been vandalized one evening by parties unknown and the Village was incensed. The incident even made the national headlines, and the next day, there were so many neighbors and people helping restore the garden that they got in each others way. The Matsumotos were highly respected, and liked by everyone, but because of their name and background someone never found must have thought in some way they were getting some kind of retribution because they were Japanese.

One day while having lunch in the basement lunchroom at Chatsworth School, we looked out the window on Chatsworth Avenue to see lines of soldiers marching down the street. For a while we saw this to be a daily occurrence, not until many years later did I find out from a returning veteran and life-long resident of Larchmont, that these soldiers were quartered in a building, a former Cadillac car agency on Myrtle Boulevard, that was used as a temporary holding center for soldiers that had come back from the Pacific and were to be sent home on leave, or being reassigned, and these daily marches were a means of exercise to keep them from boredom for the week or so that they were staying there.

Decoration Day, or as we now call Memorial Day, was a day that we in the gang really understood, especially knowing about Frannie Ehrets brother, who was one of the first killed in the war. We never knew about the details of John Ehrets' death, or when or where, but we always felt very sad for Mrs. Ehret, who would always be at the Memorial Service held at the Memorial on the Village Hall lawn. There would be a parade prior to the services, in which the whole Village would turn out. The parades included many bands, veterans and active military home on leave, civic groups, fire and police departments, but no vehicles as to save gasoline. All the Girl Scouts, boy scouts, Cubs and Brownies, Bluebirds, Campfire Girls, Nurses and "CD" Corps members would march. Our bikes would be decorated with red, white and blue streamers in the spokes and wrapped around the handlebars. Every store had a hole drilled in the sidewalk in front of their store, in which an American flag was displayed. At the service, after "taps" was played, a rifle salute would be given, after which we would scramble to get the ejected shells from the volleys. The day seemed to be very different than the present because of the solemnity and reverence given, while today it is more of a "shopping and a vacation" occasion.

Peter Lindeman all but closed the Manor Garage so my father had to look for another job. Fortunately, he found two, and so he was never out of work. The first job was as "Shore Captain" at the Horseshoe Harbor Yacht Club in the Manor. Even with the war on, there were many sailboats not requiring gasoline, and sailing and racing boats was a great wartime diversion, as traveling by auto was impossible.

He was responsible for setting and maintaining moorings for the boats, maintaining the clubhouse, docks, launches and providing launch service to the member's boats. His duties included staying some nights in a little bunkroom for him and the launch men so as to have someone always available in case of storms and emergencies. He had to wear a khaki uniform during the day, and on weekends, and during the various club races and regattas he would have to wear a naval officer's style uniform with jacket and tie. Special flags would be flown from the launches and the Club's flag pole every time a Club commodore or officer was present At sunset every day a cannon would be sounded and the Club's flags would be lowered. A cannon would also be fired at 8 A.M. every morning.

One of the men working with my father was a Swedish man, Martin Olson. Martin was a tremendous help to my father, as he was a great boatman, and had worked at the Club for many years. Unfortunately, Martin had been in an almost fatal auto accident which left him sometimes disoriented and unable to express himself properly. He called the police station "the cop house", the telephone would be called "the nickel thing" and if he couldn't explain himself, he would say, "You know, the thing, you know the thing." Danish and Swedish being so similar, my father was one of the few who could understand him, so they communicated very well.

I had lots of fun with my father, as he would take me for rides on the launches, and we would clam on the adjoining beaches, fish off the docks and set out eel and lobster pots. My father was a very popular man, so he always had fellow firemen, police and friends stop by to visit and they always knew when he was making clam chowder, or cooking eels and fish. I even spent some nights with him sleeping in the bunkroom.

The sunshine and being on the water seemed to give his health a boost and he never looked more fit.

His second job consisted of having a concession to repair and maintain the cars of the tenants of the Albee Court Apartments on the Post Road. The Albee Court was a luxury apartment house. In its early years it had doormen and porters and grounds men and had a large garage where the tenants parked their cars. Not only was my father able to maintain their cars, but also he was allowed to repair the cars of friends and former customers of the Manor Garage.

When I became nine, I joined the Cub Scouts with some classmates and was assigned to a Den sponsored by a Mrs. Cobden whose Boy Scout son was our Den Leader. All of us in the Den were from families of parents who could really not afford to buy uniforms, so one day during school, Mrs. Cobden came into class, with a large box and passed out uniforms, from cap to socks to all in the Den. We were all so proud of these uniforms and wore them to school on the day of our Den meetings, as was the custom in those days for all kids in scouting. I will never forget the generosity of this very fine lady, and the concern she had for a group of boys who might never been able to get these uniforms. We proudly wore these uniforms during the next Memorial Day parade.

The convoys of military goods on the Post Road were almost a daily occurrence now, as well as long trains on the New Haven Railroad, which we would watch if we were on the other end of the Village. It was hard to believe the number of tanks, planes, gliders jeeps and trucks that we would see going by, as well as the troop trains.

While listening to Arthur Godfrey on the radio, one morning, as was my father's custom before going to work, we were also planning my mother's birthday party for that night, June 6, 1944. The show was interrupted to announce the invasion of Europe at Normandy in France. My father explained where Normandy was and tried to put into perspective the reason for all the convoys we had seen the previous years, the saving of scrap, rationing and the reason we were there. He also had a very personal interest, because his mother and sisters were in Nazi-occupied Denmark, and had not heard from them for almost five years. So hopefully there would soon be news about their well being.

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