Wednesday, October 28, 2009

War Bonds and "Willie"

James Cagney and James Melton—1943

I'm sure my mother saved metal for bombers and fat for explosives just as other patriotic housewives did. Like many people during the war, my parents had a victory garden where they grew vegetables and fruit for home use. Unlike most people, however, they also had a full-time gardener to tend it. Robert was diabetic, and so exempt from military service. He not only took care of the vegetable garden, but tended the apple trees, blueberry bushes and grape arbor. I imagine he also took care of the chickens and Willie the lamb. Ah, Willie! Goodness knows what prompted my parents to this experiment in animal husbandry. They evidently didn't know the first rule of farming: don't name something you intend to eat. When Willie was finally turned into chops for the freezer, even though he was mixed in with a batch purchased from Gristede's, no one wanted to eat lamb for months on the chance it might be you-know-who.

Clearly, the Meltons' greatest contribution to the war effort was in terms of fund raising, whether it was my mother serving on volunteer relief committees, or my father lending his talents to raise money for War Bonds. War Bonds were U.S. Savings Bonds sold to the public to help finance the war. By the end of World War II, 85 million Americans had invested in War Bonds. These bonds provided not only financial security for the bondholders but allowed members of the public to contribute to national defense in time of war.

In 1943 my father sang at an old-timers baseball game at the Polo Grounds to raise money for War Bonds. Irving Berlin, Ethel Merman, James Cagney, Milton Berle, former New York Mayor Jimmie Walker participated, but Babe Ruth stole the show with a home run.

1 comment:

  1. When I was in Hershey last month there was an old restored 'house car' that I took photos of - they had literature with it as the 'find of the century' the photos look almost identical to this car - you will be happy to know that it has been lovingly restored and I will send pictures to your email if you send it to me at