Sep 30, 2014

September 1944: no place for a woman

“I arrived [at Southwestern College] in the spring of 1944, to find a student body of about 150, including 13 men.  They were either deferred as ministerial students, as farmers, or 4-F.  They included one retarded student, Bob Hill, who had been my classmate all through grade school in Winfield.
“I do not recall enrolling in forensics [debate] in my first year.  Actually, I had been enamored of chemistry in high school and thought of a career in physical chemistry.  Because of the war, most of the professors had gone into service, and Professor Oncley, near retirement, was teaching Physics, although that was not his major field.  Prof. Oncley made it clear to me that the field of physical chemistry was no place for a woman.  The physical conditions in the labs were pitiful as well, and the combination of those factors discouraged me.”

--From brief memoir written by my mother about her college years, written around 2001.  She graduated college in January 1948.  (According to my mother's transcripts from Southwestern College, she matriculated into the college on September 5, 1944 and not the spring, although she may have visited earlier.)

Sep 24, 2014

Sun, Sep 24, 1944: Chicago Harbor

"I promised to say some more about the Wilmette Cruise; so here goes.  We went on the trip mainly to fire the ship's guns. The .30 caliber and the 22 mm. machine guns made enough noise, even with our cotton-stuffed ears; but these were only toys in comparison to the 3'50 caliber.  Its bark was the loudest most penetrating noise I ever heard.  The ordnance instructors say that it's harder on ears than even the rumble of a 16" file; and I believe them....
"For three nights we watched the bright lights of Chicago while anchored in Chicago Harbor; but liberty on the beach was reserved for officer's and ship's crew."

-- Letter from my father, Notre Dame, Ind., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, September 24, 1944.

Sun, Sep 24, 1944: Roosevelt

"We listened to Roosevelt Sat. night and as Dewey just said his (Roosevelt's) speech consisted of mud-slinging and wise-cracks. Well it won't be long now until we'll know whether we'll have Dewey or another four years with Roosevelt.
"Warren B. was here last summer during the Democratic Convention.  We were talking about the certainty of Roosevelt being nominated.  Warren said, 'Yes and if he is nominated I suppose he will be re-elected.  I just look for that old duffer to stay in there until he kicks the bucket.'...

"P.S. Jack Seal's mess segeant came back to the U.S. on furlough and Jack sent an uncensored letter to his folks by the sergeant. They found out the details how he was wounded.  The piece or shoulder bar off the German's uniform was the one who shot Jack.  The German operated a machine gun.  Jack's squad officer shot the German and got the shoulder board for Jack.  Jack said he was wounded 20 hrs. before he got to a hospital.  He dragged himself over three hundred yards."
-- Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Notre Dame, Ind., September 24, 1944.  My father's friend, Jack Seal, had been wounded in Anzio Beach, Italy.  Warren is my father's cousin.

Sep 21, 2014

Sun, Sep 18, 1944: questions

"Lieut Commander Maxwell, captain, had the bad habit of asking midshipmen some of the most unexpected questions about the ship [during a training cruise on Lake Michigan].  'How many loaves of bread does the crew eat per day?' 'Where is it stored?', "What is a mil?' are examples.  This gruff old mustached fugitive from a Walt Disney comic strip scared more than one middie; so I took the precaution of checking up on answers to his most frequently asked questions.  And apparently for good reason.  One boy, acting in the capacity of navigator, couldn't give 'the old man' (as all Captains are referred to by their men) the expected time of arrival in the target area; consequently he drew the assignment of finding the rate of each of the 70 crew members aboard...."

-- Letter from my father, Notre Dame, Ind., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., September 18, 1944.

Sun, Sep 10, 1944: a variety of occupations

Sun, Sep 10, 1944: a variety of occupations
[language warning] "While on the subject of fathers, I might mention that the boys here in Section 5 are sons of men representing quite a variety of occupations.  Ed Burke's dad makes stationary and Ed's grandfather recently came back from China where he had been interned by the Japs while a missionary.  Burt Brody's Dad, a Russian immigrant, must be a very successful accountant; for somewhere he accumulated enough to send Burt to Europe, to a fancy 'finishing' school, and to Yale.  Then there's Harry Brown, who makes it clear that he hails from Queen, although his Brooklyn accent and the fact that his father is a Lieutenant in the Brooklyn Fire Dept. had us confused for a time.  Of course, one will find a scattering of farmer's sons around; but the occupations of the other 20 odd men here are not known to me.  It would make an interesting subject for investigation....
"Hank Brown, a very careful, meticulous housekeeper, hit the ceiling upon walking into the room Friday and finding a mimeographed room inspection sheet, stamped with our company officer's name and with red marks opposite six listed officers plus the line ROOM IN GROSS DISORDER.  Buel happened to have a stray appropriately signed slip; so we conceived the idea of planting it on Hank's desk.  The result was well worth the effort involved; and when Hank indicated that he was ready to take the grip to the Captain, if necessary, we informed him concerning the true state of affairs. Hank, being a good guy, sheepishly, grinned."
-- Letter from my father, Notre Dame, Ind., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., Sunday, September 10, 1944. 

Tue, Sep 5, 1944: propaganda movie

[warning: derogatory language] "I was a busy man over this week-end.  Friday evening we saw 'The Battle of China', a film in the 'why-we-fight' series.  It was the kind of thing which would certainly get us worked up about the war.  Pictures of Jap atrocities -- executions, persons with mutilated limbs, etc. - featured this propaganda movie.  Most horrible sight was a living man with half his neck hacked away.  The thing they tried to impress upon us is the fact that Japan by doing such has united China.  As has been the case with most countries, China has evolved from a geographic expression into a nation, because of a foreign war."
-- Letter from my father, Sidney DeVere Brown, Notre Dame, Ind., to his family, Bloomington, Kans., September 5, 1944. The word "Jap" appears regularly in my fathers' letters, in reference both to Japanese nationals and to Japanese-Americans.  I know in his later life, as a professor of Japanese history, my father was chagrined by his frequent use of the word in these letters.  In fact, when he transcribed some of these letters for publication, he always changed that word to "Japanese."  My father's liberal usage of the term reflects its common usage among non-Japanese Americans during World War II and before.  In fact, only a few U.S. newspapers chose to avoid the common slur.  Nowhere in my father's letters does he question the use of the term, even when he sympathizes with his Japanese American teachers unable to get housing because of racial prejudice.  To most Japanese Americans, the term was a biting insult.  As one Japanese American, Shosuke Sakai who immigrated to the United States as a seven-year-old around 1919, remembered: "They [white boys] used to call me a 'Jap.'  I remember, I used to get furious and start fighting back."  (Frank Chin, ed., Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947, 51; Daily Tulean Dispatch, November 6, 1942).

Sep 4, 2014

Mon, Sep 4, 1944: the team and wagon

"No mail today and Mother said it would be a good time for me to write you, so here goes....
"Mother and Stanley started to school today, they just went till noon as it was labor day, Mother just has eleven in her room, that will be some different from Waverley where they have 26 pupils this year  I imagine Ella Myres will have her hands full, you know she is teaching this year there.
"Mother and Barbara washed this afternoon and Stanley and I sowed Rye, Stanley drove the team and wagon to the field, thats the way we had of taking rye seed to the field. It looked for awhile like it was going to rain us out, but outside of a few sprinkles it has'ent rained yet."
-- Letter from my grandfather, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Notre Dame, Ind., September 4, 1944.  My grandparents were still using horses on the farm in 1944.  The transition from horses to tractors for farmwork was very gradual on my grandparents’ farm as in the country at large.  The number of farm horses in Butler County, Kansas, peaked around 1910 at 22,752, roughly the number of people in the county (23,059).  If you add in the town horses, there were likely more horses than people in the county then.  The number of farm horses gradually declined to 8,479 in 1940 and to 4,666 by 1950, while the human population grew slightly and the acres of farmland stayed about the same.  My grandfather gave up horses in fits and starts.  He acquired a Fordson tractor, probably during the 1920s, but tired of its gas consumption and unreliability and returned to using horses in the early 1930s.  He got a new Farmall F-20 tractor in 1937, yet continued to use horses for some tasks.  (Sources: U.S. Census, 1900-1950; Sidney DeVere Brown, Kansas Farmboy: A Memoir of Boyhood and Youth [2008], 103, 105)