The whole afternoon changed . . .
Catherine S. Allen

This was an unusual warm sunny day in the northeastern part of the United States. We lived at Coleman Station, N.Y., a hamlet of Dutchess County. It was a Sunday afternoon; we had been to church and Sunday School.
We were having a family birthday dinner party for one of my uncles, “Uncle George,” a cousin, but we all called him Uncle George, and also our grandmother, Ellen Stalker, whose birthday was on that day. We kids had finished dinner and were outdoors playing, while the adults were visiting and we were getting ready for the birthday cake and ice cream.

Then the announcement came over radio that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and that we were at war.

The whole afternoon changed, everyone became very quiet. Then the men began to talk about who would go into the service to fight the war, who would stay home to run the farm. That was a decision they didn’t have to make; they didn’t have any control over it. The first volunteers were at our court house the next morning, and then the draft board was formed and into effect. Most young men were given draft numbers and were classified according to their physical and health conditions—heart-eyes-handicaps. They were given jobs essential to our safety and welfare.
After a while everyone went home very subdued with many unanswered questions.

Then came gas rationing, food rationing, sugar, and meat. We had Meatless Wednesdays so we could send the meat to the boys at the war front. Shoe rationing. For the gas rationing you were allowed a certain amount for farm work and had special farm stamps; there were special stamps for the family car. This is when we changed churches. We didn’t have enough gas to do family shopping, food, doctors, and church, so we started going to a church closer to our home.

Special stamps for fire trucks and ambulances. Air raid drills in school. Black out nights — if you had to be out you had to drive with your low lights on parking lights. No street lights in large cities. Black shades and curtains at our windows. People took classes to be lookouts for foreign planes and took turns of duty night and day.
The National Weather Broadcast System was shut down during the entire war so that the enemy did not know our conditions across the United States.

Then there was the worry and fear for our Boys and Girls in the service—would they return home safely, healthy? Hopefully the enemy would not make it to American soil.

The Government started a Cadet Nurses Corps. You would be trained by the government and then serve three years in the medical service as a nurse. That sounded ideal to me. I did all of my paper work and was ready to go into the program, but it was discontinued in 1947, the year I graduated from high school. So I went on as a private student at the Vassar Brothers Hospital School of Nursing in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and ended up becoming the Head Nurse of the Urological Deptartment at Vassar Hospital.

This war changed the whole world and left its mark on everyone.

Catherine S. Allen, née Stalker, was born April 15, 1929 at Sharon Hospital, Sharon, Connecticut. She lived at Coleman Station, New York, and started school in Pawling, New York, in a one-room schoohouse. She also went to school in Milford, Conn-ecticut, then back to Coleman Station— both one-room school houses—and finally was bussed to the “big school” at Millerton, New York for her twelfth year. Then it was off to Poughkeepsie, New York, and the Vassar Nursing school, where she eventually became head nurse in the Urology Department. She was married on May 9, 1952 to Herbert B. Allen, and they lived in Poughkeepsie until 1956, when they moved to Clinton Corners, New York, where they bought their first and only home. Their son, Lance, was born March 25, 1963, at Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her husband passed away in December 1996, and she moved to Reno to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law.

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