fb pixel

Log In


Reset Password

Everything changed in 1942

War news was still not good. The country would soon enter into its second year of combat, and the patriotic folks at home were proudly struggling through their own war efforts.

It was one sacrifice after another. When the government banned sliced bread, the Fluhrer Bakery ran newspaper advertisements explaining a basic slicing technique: “Lay the loaf on its side, bottom toward you. Hold it firmly, use a sharp knife and long, easy strokes — don’t press too hard.”

There were no new cars to buy, no nylon stockings to wear. Tires and gasoline were rationed. Even a morning cup of coffee now required a war ration book.

Those who planted “Victory Gardens” in vacant lots during spring 1942 would see them turned to mud or washed away in winter rains.

Clocks would stay on daylight saving time to save energy. Medford restaurants began “Meatless Tuesday,” so the boys overseas would have enough to eat. Shoes were rationed to one pair each year, and Oregon’s weekly liquor allotment was cut from a quart to a pint.

No matter how bad it got, few people ever complained. After all, what were their little troubles compared with those of a tank soldier in the African desert or a Marine on a Pacific island beach?

Five miles north of Medford, a new military city appeared — a training center called Camp White. There, recruits of the 91st Infantry Division were learning to fight a war.

To welcome the troops as they marched through Medford streets in fall 1942, local Girl Scouts placed a flower in the barrel of each soldier’s rifle as the men marched by.

Artillery shells whistled northward on the practice range, boots marched over the parade field and engineers practiced bridge building on the Rogue River. In a camp hospital bed, Private Chegwidden, who had been trying to lose weight, stared longingly at the 10 pounds of candy he had just received from home.

“Older girls and women, and especially mothers,” were asked to host the recently opened USO clubs. The women were assured that social functions for the troops were “well controlled” and that it wasn’t necessary for volunteers to know how to dance.

Those who could not fight still wanted to support the troops and “to do their bit.” They bought war bonds at the movie theater to help finance the fighting. Lela, mother of movie star Ginger Rogers, headed the local bond drive from the Rogers dairy ranch near Shady Cove.

It wasn’t just Ginger, a steady parade of movie people marched through the valley encouraging everyone to buy even more. Tarzan’s movie “son,” 11-year-old Johnny Sheffield, was one of the first, selling bonds and signing autographs “for the cause.”

Jackson County musicians heard the pleas of Camp White soldiers who were trying to organize a band but had no instruments. The men were desperate to rent, buy or borrow drums, trombones, violins and trumpets. The musical folk of the valley encouraged everyone to help. “If you can’t make cookies, perhaps you have a clarinet. If you can’t knit a sweater, maybe you have a saxophone.”

The soldiers got everything they needed, and it didn’t cost them a dime.

The year ended, and everyone knew their world had changed. Another Christmas would come and go before Americans and their allies landed in Europe. Soldiers, sailors and aviators would continue to die for nearly three more years.

Yet the home front held steady and carried on. Together, they would gladly manage one sacrifice after another, no matter how long it took. And if they were very, very lucky, peace would finally come, and then — everything would change all over again.

Writer Bill Miller is the author of five books, including “Forgotten Voices of WWI.” Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.