And Johnny will sleep
in his own little bed again . . .
Louise Lang



Rubber was in short supply, because many thousands of military planes, jeeps, and trucks needed tires. Rubber for civilian use was of very poor quality—as in elastic for underpants. During this time Mum was shopping in downtown Boston once when her underpants fell down around her ankles. She stepped ahead and continued on her way as if nothing had happened.

This was a scary time of air raid sirens, blackouts, and droning airplanes. We worried that the droning was an enemy plane coming to bomb the city. When the sirens wailed, we never knew if it was a raid or a drill, but we had to shut off everything except the radio and cover the windows. Each home had heavy light-blocking shades or curtains or blankets for every window. No light was allowed to be visible from outside the house, and air raid wardens who were civilian volunteers walked around in the dark (no streetlights or auto headlights allowed) fining those who didn't comply. No one else could go outdoors. If you were away from home when the sirens blared, you were herded into an underground air raid shelter until the all-clear sounded. Many families stocked their cellars with provisions, first aid supplies, and clothes against an enemy attack.

Pictures and stories in the newsreels at the movies and in the papers about London and other European cities where children and families lived in air raid shelters—their homes had been bombed, destroyed—left an unforgettable impression. Bombing raids from Germany crossed the English Channel and Dover to get to London. That's when Kate Smith sang the words, "and Johnny will sleep in his own little bed again," in the song “White Cliffs of Dover,” referring to peacetime when people would be living in homes once more.

There were stories of German submarines being sighted off the New England coastline, and talk of them having dropped off spies. We were paranoid about spy infiltration. Being in junior high school at the time, I supect many of these rumors were probably started by kids scaring each other.

As I became aware of the holocaust and concentration camps, I developed an acute sensitivity to human agony deliberately caused by other humans. The images of those victims are indelible in my memory.
All patriotic civilians bought war bonds either through school or work. Every Friday in school we bought ten-cent stamps to paste in a little booklet. When the book was filled—it took $17.50 to fill it—we traded it for a bond that would be worth $25 when it matured in a few years.

Sheer nylon stockings were unobtainable, since the nylon went into the production of military parachutes. My sister, Margie, was in high school then and refused to wear those thick ugly cotton, wool, rayon, or silk stockings. She and many others used leg makeup instead. Stockings in those days were thigh high and were held up by garter belts, a form of torture to the wearer. Pantihose came on the scene much later.



Louise Lang has been a Reno resident for seventeen years, but her first twenty-three years were spent in Boston, Mass-achusetts, where she graduated from Children’s Hospital School of Nursing. She and her hus-band and two children lived in southern California for five years, then moved to North Conway, New Hampshire, for the next decade. After brief stays in Maryland and Virginia, she and her second husband resided in Southern California until they left to sail the South Pacific, visiting French Polynesia. She was lured to Reno by the wonderful skiing around Lake Tahoe.


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Lifescapes