Do you remember where you were when . . .
President Kennedy was assassinated?
The Challenger exploded?
Planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City?
You can probably easily call up your surroundings when these cataclysmic events happened.
But you most likely don’t remember May 8, 1945, VE Day, marking the end of World War II, simply because it happened 77 years ago.
Aunt Ruthie’s Diary
My Aunt Ruthie noted the day the Allied forced accepted German’s surrender, about a week after Hitler had committed suicide.
Transcription: At 9 A.M. Truman made an official proclamation of victory in Europe. Some places shut down and had holiday, some had hilarious celebrations, but it is estimated that a very large % went to church to pray. 4 visitors . . .
This week we watched a PBS Home Video titled the 1940s House (available from the Jacksonville Public Library) in which a modern English family recreates domestic life during wartime in the 1940s.
Three generations of the Hymers family, father, mother, their daughter and her two sons, aged 10 and 7, participate in the time-travel experiment, in which they learn to exist with “ever-diminishing rations and build and take refuge in an air raid shelter” in their back yard.
The video periodically cuts to a ‘war cabinet,’ of historians and scientists who monitors the family’s progress and provides the viewer with a realistic context for the era.
Though family members in the video know the military threat is metaphorical, not real, they suffer trauma in ways similar to those documented during the Blitz in London. Watery soup and no soap wear on the nerves of the family, the women especially, who had to keep the flames alive in a coal-fired cook stove and launder clothes on a washboard.
Their spirits were lifted once when an American family unexpectedly sent them a care package with treats.
The man of the household, Michael Hymers, celebrated the successful end of the 3- month-long experiment by buying a vintage Prefect, a 1940s Ford model adapted for the United Kingdom.
This week on December 7, 1941, we remember the Japanese attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, an occurrence that inspired this post along with pages from Ruthie’s diary.
* * * * *
What other memorable days do you remember from your country’s history?
Do you keep a diary?
What stories (told or written) have other family members shared with you?
Good morning, Marian! You are right that I don’t remember VE Day. 🙂 But I do remember the other events you mentioned.
You have such a treasure trove of family documents and photos.
You are the first commenter this morning – yay! But now it’s evening, and I’m just now catching up with you.
Yes, I agree, I am so fortunate to have an aunt who kept a diary and inspired me to do the same. Thanks for starting your Wednesdays here, so appreciated, Merril!
I remember when that TV show was on, but didn’t watch it. I didn’t know that many people went to church on VE Day but thinking on it I’m not surprised. The memorable national day I remember is when I woke up on Wed. Nov 8, 2000 and found out that we didn’t know who’d be President. I remember thinking that this had never happened before in my lifetime, and that it was a glimpse into a post-Y2K chaotic future. Little did I know how chaotic it’d be.
Thanks, Ally, for reminding us of another memorable day that dragged into weeks and weeks of not knowing. Gosh! And to think I live in the state that made hanging chads notorious. :-/
Oh yes, I definitely keep a journal, Marian. Now I’m wondering if I should start writing more neatly, just in case a family member shares it on the internet after I’m gone. 🙂 I have vivid memories of where I was on 911 and when the Challenger exploded.
Excellent point, Jill. I had the same thought. 🙂
Ha! That’s funny, Jill. 🙂
Aunt Ruthie always had flowing handwriting, which I found amazing since she was left-handed, yet her cursive writing always tilted to the right.
I suspect that your journal may supply seeds for the vivid details I’ve found in your novels.
I remember all the events you mentioned except VE Day. My dad was a Navy man at Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, serving on the USS Enterprise, and a couple of times we heard his stories. Yes I keep a journal and try to write in it often. It is so interesting what memorable events each person remembers and how they remember it, be it by their surroundings or by some of their senses.
I’m so glad your dad lived to tell the story of his Pearl Harbor experience. Wow!
You hit on a very important detail about memories and how other family members have differing recollections. This why memoirists often print disclaimers citing this fact. Thanks for sharing here, Ginger!
I keep a journal too, Marian. And I also remember the Challenger explosion, 9/11, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.
Thanks for adding some events to the list, Marie. I was sitting in the living room of our first home when Armstrong walked on the moon; “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!” 🙂
I love your aunt’s note that a very large percent “went to church to pray” on the arrival of V-day. That’s a treasured line and reminder right there, Marian. My wish for this day as much of the country pauses in honor of a past president, is that we pray every day for peace and reconciled relationships and goodwill for all.
Your prompt reminds me of the day I head Pres. Bush 41 speak at a convention in Washington D.C. It was in January, very soon after the short Iraq war, and Bush looked tired and aging and worn out. It was the only time I’ve seen a “sitting” president and that’s one of the things I think I’ll always remember along with the momentous days you cite–all politics aside.
Journals are a marvelous keepsake says this writer.
The funeral in the National Cathedral was dignified and uplifting. I understand that months ago the Bush family sent signals to the political world that acrimony would not be tolerated at the service. One memorable line from Senator Al Simpson, quoting his mother: “Hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.”
Yes, journals are marvelous keepsakes, Melodie. And so are the books you have written, says this writer.
My mom remembers VE Day; I’m tempted to send her your link. We’ve never again since had a war like that one, where it impacted the daily lives of citizens at home. Perhaps that’s why they now last so long — going on 18 years in Afghanistan! How much of our tax bill goes to fund our military presence around the world? I won’t say; it’s much more memorable when you look it up. Thanks for getting me fired up so early, Marian. Usually takes me a few more hours. Hugs and kisses everyone.
I’m smiling at your quick punch today – but also grieving at the ravages of battle and collateral damage to private citizens. I learned early from my Mennonite culture to seek peace and abhor war. My father and grandfather Longenecker did not participate in any wars as soldiers though they contributed scrap metal to help defeat Hitler.
Do send this post to your mother. She could relate to many of the scenes in the video as well. I remember aid raid drills, all students having to crouch under our desks when the haunting siren wailed. 🙁
I do keep a daily journal as my mother did. I always like to read back and see what we did the previous year on the same date.
I do too and now FB helps us with those memories. 👍
Very true, Darlene and Fatima. I am amazed at the details I have forgotten when I re-read previous entries. More and more journaling has become a stand-in for my memory. Ha!
VE Day features very heavily in the UK news almost every year, especially in the south and eastern coasts, as troops trained and left from this area and there are still survivors from the actual era and events and many lost relatives in the Blitz.
My father-in-law was a child evacuee during WW2 and often tells of the shortage of food.
In Spain we celebrate 12th October, Hispanic Day, as it was on that day in 1492 that Europeans first set foot in America, led by Christopher Colombus, a journey paid paid by the Spanish Crown.
In a great part of Europe, and particularly in the UK, we remember the end of WW1 at 11 am on 11th November with a 2-minute silence everywhere, from shops to schools, and we have Remembrance Sunday (the closest to 11th November) when the Queen, all the Royals, politicians and foreign dignitaries attend a special service at 11 am with the 2-minute silence. This year was the 100 anniversary of the end of WW1 and the streets were lined with poppies and many shops had special displays to remember the fallen.
Your recollections are keen, precise. Thank you for supplying the detail of the Spanish, English and other European observances. In the United States, November 11 is observed as Veteran’s Day with parades and other ceremonies. I have always admired the symbolic wearing of poppies, the first flowers to grow on the battlefields after World War I. John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields is especially poignant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_Flanders_Fields_and_other_poems_page_3.png
Thank you for taking the time for such a detailed remembrance, Fatima.
Thank you for sharing the poem, Marian: so poignant and profound. I just wish war was a thing of the past. 💖
As do I! This morning I read on another blog: “A Peaceful man does more good than a learned one.” Pope John XXIII
Wise words. 👍
We were refugees from Ukraine and toward the end of the war my father was conscripted into the German army. He became a prisoner of war for several months with the Americans.My pregnant mother with My brother (age 4) and me (age 2), my grandmother and my teenage uncle took refuge in the barn of a South German farm family where we were given a work assignment.
My father returned to us that May, skin and bones, to greet the new baby and to celebrate my 2nd birthday I remember none of this, but I do remember being surprised, (later, as a 9 year old when we came to Canada) that the people in Canada were going to movies and living a normal life while we were fleeing for our lives. I had thought all the world was uprooted like we were because it was a “world” war!
Oh, my, Elfrieda. You speak from experience, and from stories remembered. I know some of your biography from your blog posts, but I appreciate your summarizing it so succinctly here.
Once I heard that at any given time, 13 wars are happening on this planet. Horrible! And here I sit tapping words on a computer.
I am glad your story ends well and that you and your family were able eventually to prosper in Canada ~ and you and Hardy in other lands where you ministered. Thanks for all of this, Elfrieda!
Hi Marian, I remember all those events except VE day! Today is the anniversary of Mr. Nelson Mandela’s death 5 years ago … I hope to watch some of the tributes on TV at some stage this evening.
Yes, I keep a journal. I like what Jill said about maybe writing more neatly so if any family member gets hold of it/them at least it will be legible. Sometimes I can’t read my own scrawl … I just hope though that my sister remembers my instruction to BURN them all should I leave my mortal coil 🙂
What a coincidence, Susan ~ thank you for mentioning Nelson Mandela’s death and the commemoration observed in South Africa today. What a legacy he has left! I’m not sure American news outlets mentioned that because the funeral of President George Bush, Sr. took center stage. However, it was probably covered on the BBC news, which I watch occasionally.
I’m not sure your sister should follow through on your instructions to burn the journals. Hmmmm 😀
Marian — In the photograph, it looks like your Aunt Ruthie used a pencil (as opposed to a pen) to write in her diary. I’m amazed at how well it’s held up. Wow!
I purchased a WriteWell Journal that has 240 pages. I’m writing one page a month for and about my granddaughter, Luna Bleue. It should hold 18 years worth of information. I plan to give it to her on her 19th birthday. And yes, I plan to still be around to do so. I’m only 61 now, so I’ll still be just a wee young lass.
You are a PLANNER, with a capital “P.” What a lovely heirloom in the making. Will you tell Luna what you are creating for her before age 19?
I have kept photo albums for each of my 4 grandchildren, which I gave to them when we moved two years ago. It seemed the right thing to do because now all my photos are digital. I also have kept a list of quotable sayings for each child. I’m holding on to these though. And I haven’t thought of an appropriate “release” date.
Thanks, Laurie, for sharing your bright idea. Perhaps another “Gramsy/Nana” will grab your idea or modify it. 🙂
That movie sounds interesting to watch, Marian. I’ll have to look that up, either on Netflix, or when I’m close to a library again. Thanks for sharing.
I remember the planes hit the Twin Towers in New York City, but I was too young for the other events, although I’m sure they made international news. The only event I seem to remember from my teenager times was the day and what I was doing when the radio announced the death of Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the grunge group Nirvana. I also remember where we were sailing when Michael Jackson died.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve kept a daily diary for almost 30 years now. At this point, I shouldn’t stop anymore, even though it takes between 15-30 minutes every evening and sometimes drives me crazy. 🙂
My oma shared stories about WWII with me before she passed away. Nobody of that generation is alive anymore that I know. It’s sad.
I remember hearing of the death of Kurt Cobain, and felt very sorry that he took his own life though I don’t remember where I was when the news broke. I also remember feeling sad in the same way when Michael Jackson died.
You are to be congratulated for writing in your diary for almost 30 years. Do you hear me cheering, CHEERING! I kept detailed journals when we went on trips abroad, notes which came in handy when I blogged about the travel, but I remember forcing myself to write even when I was totally exhausted. Now at home I keep a dairy of 3-4 lines, very brief. Thanks for stopping by on your busy day, Liesbet!
Interesting piece of nostalgia Marian. Isn’t it funny how most of us do remember where we were in those tragic historical moments. I was 4 years old sitting in front of the TV when Walter Conkrite took over the television with the tragic announcement of Kennedy’s assassination. I was drinking my morning coffee and watching Regis and Kathy Lee when the TV showed the twin towers on fire after the plane went into them. At first I didn’t know what I was seeing and then I was in utter shock for the whole day as was most of America. 🙁 Some things we will never forget.
Thank you for the vivid description of both events, Debby. The sights and sounds are so profound, we feel the trauma in body, soul, and spirit.
As to the latter event, I walked into the communications office at the college amazed to see the TV on and then hearing that I was not observing an accident in NYC, but the conclusion of a demonic plan. I agree, some things we will never forget. 🙁
We will never forget. 🙁
Two events stick firmly in my memory, when the planes hit the twin towers for one .
I remember going home , my husband was at home and the television was on with the horrifying images , neither of us greeted each other, or spoke, or asked why we were back home so early, we just staredat the telly in horror …terrible .
Also the day Princess Diana was killed in a car crash, we were coming home from Ireland on a ferry when we heard the terrible news everybody walked around the ferry in a daze …it was almost dream like .
Yes I do keep a personal journal I ‘m not sure I’ve listed world events , I must have a cosy peek .
Yes, I too remember the announcement of Princess tragic death. We were coming home from a trip, I believe, when the news came through on the last day of August. The royal family has since allowed their young people to marry those they love, a lesson learned the hard way.
Cherry, I’m not surprised you keep a personal journal. I must find a way to use the phrase “cosy peek” soon. You certainly have a unique way with words! oxo
I visited Lincoln, England the beginning of August and a Spitfire fighter plane sat right smack dab inside the Lincoln Cathedral for a few days. There was also an airshow of England’s World War II fighting planes one evening. The dark memories of that war continue to be remembered by the British people.
Thanks for up-to-the minute reporting here, Jean. The Spitfire fighter planes were featured in the video, history coming to life again.
That diary is a historical treasure!
Indeed it is. Thanks for stopping by today, Lady Fi!
Thank you, Marian. Aunt Ruthie’s diary is a goldmine. I remember the top three events, plus when Martin Luther King was assassinated and, a few months later, Robert Kennedy. Vic and I had seen Robert Kennedy speak at Cornell to a group of anti-war students and we loved him. These assassinations were on either side of our marriage in May 1968 and it felt like the world was coming to an end. Now I’m used to feeling like the world is coming to an end. Sigh…
Having WWII end was a big deal in my family. My dad returned from the Merchant Marines, sick but home, my uncle taught pilots in the United states instead of flying over Japan, and the most relieved was my mom’s second husband who didn’t have to fight a war on Japanese soil. I also remember when my husband turned 26 which meant he wasn’t illegible for the draft and we would not have to flee to Canada which was the plan. We were not fans of war.
War is hell. Why, oh, why can’t we get along.
Yes, November 1963 was an horrific time. It seemed like the killings would never stop: Then Jack Ruby fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald two days later while Oswald was in police custody after being charged with assassinating our President Kennedy. I remember November 22 each year, whether the media reminds us or not. This year the date fell on Thanksgiving day and not much was said, but I later recalled that day I was in my classroom teaching English when the announcement came and the world stopped.
Thank you for the telling of your family’s involvement (or not) in WWII. I contribute every year to the Center for Justice and Peace Building at Eastern Mennonite University. Why? Because I too believe war is hell and want to support the “other side” as long as I live. Thank you as always for your thoughtful comment, Elaine. 🙂
I remember all the events you mention, but not alive during VE Day. But each of the others left an indelible imprint in my memory. Another one? Umm, well, I must admit, the first Beatles trip to America and their first televised appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. 🙂
Sounds like a great video you discovered at the library. When I was a teen I befriended an older woman (or she befriended me). She and her husband were well off, but she showed me all the ways she saved things (like little bits of bath soap, put in a netting until it was just bubbles left) and never wasted anything because of her memories of living through the Depression.
Ha! I remember the Beatles, but not their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
Thanks for your story of the frugal friend. As you may guess, my family was frugal too. One carryover is recycling aluminum foil and gift bags. But also, I respect the environment by recycling tons of stuff. Our recycling bin is 3 times as full as the trash can.
I’ll bet yours is too! 🙂
My mum still remembers being deprived during the war. She had never seen or eaten an orange, for example, until she was more than 10!
England was hit very hard. The video made their deprivation and fear more real to me!
Your mum’s experience was reality as she must have experienced the Blitz and its aftermath! I’m sure that orange (though belated) tasted very, very sweet. Thanks, Fiona.