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May 28, 2013

LIZ CIANCONE: Looking back at memories of ‘history’

I was reading a whodunit the other day. The protagonist was trying to solve the mystery of what had happened to a local citizen soldier who had disappeared during the war.

“Ah,” I thought, “Here’s an historic novel with a mystery twist.”

Of course, all of the suspects were dead, or dying or had faulty memories. Must have been hell during World War I, I thought. Reading on, I discovered they were talking about World War II! Hey! That’s not history, that’s memories.

It brought me up short and reminded me that I have finished high school, and college. I’ve been married for 60 years and our sons are both eligible for AARP! That’s MY generation this author is calling history.

I remember running to Brown’s Grocery for Mom with the ration book in one hand and the money in the other. Mr. Brown would tear out stamps when we bought canned goods, or sugar, or meat. I suppose he had to balance his books with stamps to account for every item which had been delivered to him. More bookkeeping involved?

Then there were the aluminum drives. If you had been cooking with aluminum saucepans, you were asked to go back to the old iron skillet and donate the aluminum to the scrap drive so they could make airplanes. Or, if you were in the market for toothpaste, it was required that you take the empty tube of collapsed metal to the drug store before they could sell you a fresh tube.

Leather was a hot item and stamps were required to buy shoes. Since my young brother was growing rapidly from babyhood to childhood, his feet required new shoes frequently so most of our stamps went for him.

You did not need stamps to buy what we called “cardboard shoes” and I bought a pair with three-inch heels and ankle straps. I thought I was hot stuff.

Before rationing, Dad bought me a pair of nylons as my first grown-up stockings. My friends were envious because neither nylons nor silk could be bought at any price. They made parachutes out of that stuff.

It was appropriate that I was visited with these thoughts on Memorial Day. I didn’t guess what happened to the soldier in my book, but I remember the shock I felt when it was announced that Don Warbler and Bill Bickford and a couple of other classmates would not be coming home.

History indeed! That’s my life and my memories we are talking about.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Terre Haute Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to opinion@tribstar.com.

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