Holiday Memories: Even Pearl Harbor bombing couldn't keep Santa away

It was December 1941. There would be no birthday party for me on Dec. 9 when I turned 9 years old. There would be no Christmas, either. Pearl Harbor was bombed two days earlier.

My mom, myself and four younger siblings lived on the island of Oahu, in Navy housing just three blocks from the harbor below us and two blocks from Hickam Field.

My dad was on the USS Portland at the time, its whereabouts unknown to us.

We were safely evacuated to the YMCA and given a room that would accommodate all of us if we doubled up a little. The youngest -

6 months old - slept in the pulled-out dresser drawer.

The Salvation Army supplied food and necessities to our family and many others. We had lost everything, including clothes and all personal items.

Most of our food was eaten cold as there were no cooking facilities. There was no fresh milk, only canned, no fresh fruits or vegetables. But we survived and were thankful for what we had. I often wonder how Mother managed to do all of this with very little help.

Mom explained that Santa would not be able to bring gifts this year because it was too dangerous for him to fly with his sleigh and reindeer. We were very sad children upon hearing this news.

Of course, I knew it was dangerous, why else would the radio have to be covered at night? No lights on after dark. All windows covered with black-out paper.

With only two days until Christmas, there was no excitement, no tree, no anticipation - just the radio droning on about the bombing, the lives lost, the news of the USS Arizona being hit by a bomb and the USS Utah on its side, some of which I witnessed from my upstairs bedroom window before being evacuated.

On Christmas Eve, all was very quiet. With the younger children put to bed, Mom and I listened to the radio in hopes of some news of Dad. Nothing.

Christmas morning arrived. We heard excitement, voices and a knock on the door. The Red Cross had arranged for a bus to take all the families to a huge house on the beach. It looked like a mansion to me.

As we got off the bus, who did we see? It was Santa. I thought it must be the real Santa because he had on a red suit all trimmed with white, a real beard and black shiny boots. He even had a big red bag filled with presents for all of us.

My gift was pickup sticks and a stocking with an apple, an orange, candy and nuts.

I enjoyed that gift for many years to come. It would keep me occupied many times in the long wait for our return to the states in March 1942.

I will always remember the Christmas of 1941 as being very special because Santa did come after all.

• Ruth Werts is from Carson City.


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