Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How's That for Historical Context?

One of the things I have really enjoyed in transcribing these World War II era letters from my grandfather to my uncle, is the news of everyday life. Whether it is the description of grandpa wading through a sewer in waders up to his armpits, or news of the war effort. In the current letter I am transcribing, grandpa mentions that Packard Motors is building airplane engines. A trip to Wikipedia elicits the fact that Packard was licensed to build the Rolls Royce Merlin engine. This particular engine was used  to power the P-51 Mustangs.

I discovered in earlier letters from my dad's Aunt Bessie and cousin James in Claremont, California, that rationing was much more stringent in California than it was in Detroit in early 1943. I learned my dad had trouble holding jobs as a teenager. That probably doesn't make him different than teens of any era. But since he held his last job 34 years, it is mind-boggling to me. Holding a job during the War years was important, because if you were unemployed and 18 or older, it was an automatic draft notice. Big Brother was watching.

What I haven't learned is who "the bird in the back" was. Grandpa was referring to the tenants in the back bedroom; he was unemployed and facing induction into the army and she was on the nest. And it seems that Frank, my dad, knew everyone's business. Sure wish Grandpa would have spit out that name for me. It's making me crazy and I don't have a Detroit city directory from that era to check it out. I guess that goes on my to-do list for next trip to Library of Michigan or Allen County Public Library.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. No wonder grandpa let dad enlist at 17.

  2. That's what I always thought. However, dad entered active service on September 9, 1943. That makes him 18.