American Life In Wartime 1941-1945

We have selected a featured story from 1943, we hope you enjoy it.  If you have a story to tell about life in America during the Second World War, please use the comment form at the bottom of this page.  For more stories about life in America in the 1940s, please look under “Events by Decade,” and select the “1940s” tab on the menu above.

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Featured Story: My Mother, the Construction Worker

My parents had eight children, six daughters and two sons.  I was the next to the youngest flanked by an older and younger brother.  My older sisters were married and had begun families in the early 1940s.

During World War II, when I was approximately 15 years old, two of my sisters moved back home while their spouses were overseas in the service.  They each had one son, so it was rather crowded in our house since my two brothers and I were still in school and also living at home.

Because of the crowded conditions, my mother began to explore options to ease the situation.  One day she climbed up in the attic and decided there was room to build a bedroom and kitchen on each end of the space, and also enough room where the stairs came up between the two planned apartments to build a bathroom for the sisters to share.

Daddy was working so he didn’t have time to do the construction that Mother wanted, and construction workers or even able-bodied handymen were in short supply because of the war.  My mother was about five feet tall and weighed almost one hundred seventy pounds.  She was so determined to get her project done that she went out and hired an 80 year old man to help her with the construction work.  The gentleman she hired had no experience building anything.

It was a comical sight to see this short, very overweight, and determined woman, along with her elderly assistant, handling most of the work.  The rest of us kids and Daddy helped after school and work, but mainly the work on the project was carried out by these two unlikely construction workers.  When the space was complete it provided a convenient living arrangement for my sisters and nephews.

After the war, this apartment became a source of revenue for our family.  When servicemen came home from the war there was a shortage of housing.   Mother and Daddy rented the rooms out to a number of people from the 1940s through the 1980s.  During the war years and for many years after, people did whatever they needed to do to get by.  Even single-minded mothers of eight did what was necessary to help out the family.

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