Wenonah, Don and me, with Don's best friend, Bud Bickford (L)
In spite of my mother’s prodigious memory, she always saved things that reminded her of people and events. She started as a child, with a little box of keepsakes: the little red donkeys off of Grandpa’s chewing tobacco wrappers, the little crucifix that Pappa sent her from San Antonio, and the string of beads she bought with the dime Pappa gave her to spend when she went to the district meet in Ada, Oklahoma.
When Wenonah was older she began to take an interest in politics. I guess that was natural, since her older brother Snip, short for Homer, was a state senator. She saved newspaper clippings that mentioned him, and also stories about other prominent people and notable events. She must have got that from Mama, her mother, who had newspaper articles dating back to 1910.
Anyway, Wenonah’s dedication to preserving memories has been a wonderful thing for me, because I’ve inherited her keepsakes, pictures, letters and newspaper clippings. She started making memories for me on the day she brought me home from the hospital, by buying a newspaper and saving the front page.
It was Thursday, June 2, 1942, and it makes fascinating reading.
There were no less than twenty stories related to World War II. For example:
Midwest Warned to Expect enemy Air Raids: Wichita Cited Among cities Now in Danger.
Assassins’ bullets Thursday brought death to Reinhard Heydrich, No. 2 man of the Gestapo, whose ruthless tactics gained him the title “Der Henker” - the hangman.
British Dislodge Rommel from Libyan Stronghold
Nazis Stalled on Red Front
Senate Votes Balkan War: Resolutions Passed Against Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania
Gas Rationing Ires Congress
Commemorate Pearl Harbor In Celebration Here Sunday: Six Months Anniversary
There were only two front page stories that didn’t concern the war: The news of Charlie Chaplin’s divorce from Paulette Goddard, and that of an unruly elephant which had been banished from the Wichita zoo and relocated to a nearby farm.
It seems remarkable to me that Wichita, Kansas, would be expecting an air raid. The long range bombers of the day had a maximum range of 2000 miles or so. Neither Japan nor Germany had an airfield close enough to even bomb our coasts, let alone Wichita, 1500 miles inland, but this is the degree of panic that gripped the country at the time.
The second page of the paper had several stories that concerned our family more directly. Property owners were protesting the freezing of rents, which had risen to outrageous levels because of the shortage of housing for workers at the aircraft plants, and the renters were protesting being evicted on flimsy grounds so that property owners could raise rents. Wenonah’s landlady used a different tact. She burned her trash next to the clothes line where my diapers were drying. Wenonah wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper about her:
The World’s Meanest Landlady
A Home Town News reader writes that she has just discovered the “meanest landlady.” The woman burned her trash in the incinerator directly beneath the clothesline where a line of baby’s diapers were hanging. The baby’s things had been carefully washed with a mild soap, boiled, rinsed over and over again, and finally disinfected. “To a mother,” the reader writes, “that was nothing short of a crime.”
Still getting no cooperation, Wenonah told Don she that she couldn’t take it any longer, that she had to get away from that woman. So Don and Bud looked for us a house. We couldn’t afford to buy one, but they located a little house for rent in a nice neighborhood, and we moved. The house was on S. Bluff. There wasn’t much of a yard, but there was no incinerator next door either.