This was serious . . .
Georgia Westbrook

December 7th, 1941 was a quiet Sunday afternoon for our family, undistinguishable from other Sunday afternoons. We were all in the living room—my parents, younger sister and brother. I was eleven. I don’t remember specifically what we were doing, probably reading the Sunday papers while listening to the radio. When the program was interrupted to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor it didn’t get my attention until I realized my father was crying and we heard him say, “We are at war.” This was serious.

I knew there was a war in Europe, and while my parents followed the news closely in the papers and radio broadcasts, we children did not. I read or heard that Europeans were eating their dogs. That was something I could relate to because we had a pet dog and the realization of such horror was probably the end of my childhood innocence.

The impact on me as a child was gradual and I am uncertain of the chronology of events. Our parents’ lives were changed and we children were drawn in as their lives changed, but to a much lesser degree.
My father worked in the defense industry. He was a tool and die maker in a spring manufacturing business. He also supervised some of the production employees and often went back at night to get things set up for them for the following day. His hours were long.

My mother was a hospital volunteer and became an airplane spotter. There were flash cards or books with diagrams of planes for her to learn to identify and we children would test her on them. She also became an air raid warden and when the sirens sounded all lights were turned off and out the door she went wearing her helmet and with her flashlight in hand. I was left in charge of my sister and brother. I was terrified in the dark and to this day am uncomfortable in total darkness.

Gasoline was rationed and used primarily for transportation to work. Our local weekend trips to visit with family and friends were limited. We kids collected cans for the war effort. Oleomargarine was new to us. It was a butter substitute that looked like Crisco. We kids took turns kneading a reddish color tablet until it dissolved and the stuff turned yellow. The results were lumpy and didn’t look or taste like butter.

Georgia Westbrook was born and raised twenty-five miles from Philadelphia, in a family of five, with a younger brother and sister. Follow-ing high school graduation, she studied merch-andising, acquired an A.A. degree, and worked in that field until she married. Her husband was discharged from the Marine Corps following service in Korea. They moved to Penn State where he began as a freshman and Georgia worked on campus until their first daughter, Susan, was born. Four years later they moved to Tucson, where he received an M.S. degree and their second daughter, Jennifer, was born. Their lives werre nomadic: They lived in Arizona, northern California, and Nevada. A third daughter, Laurie, was born while the girls were in school, she took classes in art, anthropology, and counseling and earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees at the University of Nevada, Reno. She worked at the library until her retirement in 1994. Two of her daughters and two grandchildren live in Reno. A third daughter and her son live in Hermosa Beach.

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