A Different Era of News

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Would you agree that we don’t realize how monumental an event is as it’s actually happening? That we don’t know to what extent history is in the making? Do you think this was more true 71 years ago than it is today?

Seventy-one years ago this weekend, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Navy. Over in Lansing, MI, Duane had just turned 10, Bruce was 8 and Jerry was 5. None of them had a clue how the world was about to change.

Both Bruce and Jerry say they can’t remember anything of that day. Duane recalls a little bit.

“I remember the paper boys were going through the neighborhood hollering ‘Extra, Extra!’ and they were telling about it,” says Duane. “I remember the next day in school, us kids were all talking about it. We said ‘we’ll win this war right away because the Japs are just little people and the biggest guns they have are .22s.'”

Of course, back then there was no TV or Internet to spread the news. How did people keep up with what was happening and how did they respond?

“Jim Adams (Maggie’s husband) always had the radio on for ballgames and such, so my grandparents would have heard about it that way,” says Jerry, as he relates history. “Roosevelt got on the radio right away the next day and declared war on Japan. Of course, Japan had already declared war on us several months earlier, but we didn’t know that. And four days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the U.S. too.”

So much happened in the years following Pearl Harbor. How much of it consumed their daily life?

“I remember they always had news reels at the movie theater,” says Duane.

“We used to go to the show every Saturday because they had a matinee,” says Bruce. “Ten cents to go to the movie. Two shows, plus a news reel and a short.”

“Short comedy, or short cartoons,” explains Jerry.

During a time when so many things were rationed—butter, sugar, gasoline—the movies were obviously an inexpensive means of entertainment.

“That was our Saturday afternoon,” says Bruce. “Seems we went every Saturday for several years. It was jam-packed with kids. Most of the movies were westerns…Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Lone Ranger, Tex Ritter…”

Jerry says he remembers hearing when President Franklin Roosevelt died. His step-grandfather Jim Adams was at the back fence talking to “ol’ Mr. Muzzleman” about it and leaning against the handle of his push lawnmower.

“When he let go of the lawnmower, the handle hit me right on the head and knocked me down,” says Jerry. “I always tell people Roosevelt’s death made a big impression on me.”

“I always knew there was something different about you,” says Duane.

“Yeah, the scar used to be further into my hairline,” says Jerry. “Now it’s part of my forehead.”

“I don’t remember much about the beginning of the war. I just remember a lot of men were enlisting in the service,” says Bruce. “I remember the end of the war though.”

“I don’t know if it was the end of the war in Europe or the war overall, but, Bruce, do you remember Melvin—he had this car with the top cut off,” asks Duane. “The day peace was declared, he had every kid in the neighborhood in that ol’ car and he was driving all around town with us.”

“Melvin Thompson,” says Bruce. “Yeah, I remember that. We used to have to have stamps to get gas. That particular night we stopped at a gas station and the guy wanted our rationing stamps and we all told him we didn’t have any.”

So what do you think? Do you think we’ll have the same stories to tell when today’s wars finally end? Will we talk about our Twitter and Facebook comments the same way the Amos Boys talk about riding around in Melvin’s car?

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4 thoughts on “A Different Era of News

    • I was at work and a student came running in to the office to tell us that a plane just flew into one of the towers in NYC. We brought a TV into our office and just about everyone in the department spent the day there, watching the events as they happened with tears running down our faces.

  1. I was working at my kids’ high school on 9/11. The teachers called everyone into the gymnasium for an assembly to tell them the news. As we walked in, a student asked me what was going on and I told him he’d always remember this day – where he was and what he was doing.

    On another note, this morning there was an interesting NPR interview of Stanley Weintraub, author of “Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War December 1941.” It was interesting since we just talked about it here on the blog.

  2. I don’t remember the day of Pearl Harbor, but do remember the day the War was over. My family was at my aunt and uncles that day which was just a few blocks from downtown Lansing. We all walked to the main street shopping area, you could not have driven because the street was filled with people walking, it was mobbed with people, store front to store front. People carrying flags, cheering, laughing, and every man in uniform was mobbed by girls and women and ended up with lipstick all over their faces.

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