Guy Farmer: Remembering another national emergency
Hunkered down at home to avoid the coronavirus pandemic, I think about another national emergency I lived through many years ago: World War II. As a grade school kid, I grew up in West Seattle not far from the huge Boeing Airplane Co. factory that manufactured B-17 bombers for the war effort.
The plant was expertly and effectively camouflaged as a residential neighborhood, but we knew where to look. My lifelong friend Dave Davies and I used to hide out in packing crates in the alley alongside my house to watch for Japanese bombers headed for the nearby Boeing plant, but we also had to keep an eye out for the ever-vigilant Air Raid Warden, my Dad, who patrolled the neighborhood looking for people who weren’t following the “stay home” rules, like his own son and a friend.
Japanese bombers never appeared in the skies over West Seattle but their patrol planes were spotted just off the Western Washington coast. We used to draw sketches of American and Japanese fighter planes in exciting “dogfights”; the good guys always won. Perhaps I thought about those aerial battles when I signed up for Air Force ROTC at the University of Washington a few years later and eventually found myself in the back seat of the F-101B “Voodoo,” the Air Force’s hottest fighter plane in the early 1960s. Fortunately, I served between wars – Korea and Vietnam – and never fired a shot in anger.
Almost everyone in my family worked at Boeing at one time or another and I spent two summers there during my college years driving intra-plant mail scooters. My mail delivery schedule permitting, I sometimes drove out to the flight line to watch the brown and yellow 707 prototype take off.
Returning to WWII memories, I recall that everything was rationed, including food and gasoline. Ration books in hand, my Mother always managed to put meat on the table. My Dad and I called it “mystery meat” for obvious reasons. It could have been beef but it also could have been bear or horse meat. Yes, really. If we poured enough ketchup on it, however, it tasted just fine.
As friends of mine make face masks to combat coronavirus – my Significant Other, Bev, made two masks for me – I remember what we did for the war effort during WWII. We had “paper drives” and accumulated huge piles of newspapers on our school grounds, the ladies stopped wearing nylons and painted stripes down the backs of their legs (yes, really) and our parents bought “war bonds,” an idea that re-surfaced in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. I found a couple of old war bonds not long ago, cashed them in for their minimal face value, and thought of the sacrifices my parents made to keep us safe, just like you’re doing for your kids right now.
Well, those are some of my WWII memories, which remind me that we’re united in the war against coronavirus – Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. To hell with politics and the politicians who are trying to take advantage of a national emergency. As one of my old coaches used to say, “We’re in it to win it.” Do your part.
SAVE THE APPEAL
My Dear Readers: My heart sank as I read the desperate plea from Appeal Publisher Peter Bernhard to advertisers and subscribers to join together to save this newspaper. “We continue to publish during these difficult and uncertain times,” Bernhard wrote, while asking for donations “to keep the business operating.” Please join me in supporting the Appeal, our community newspaper.
Veteran journalist Guy W. Farmer has been writing for the Appeal since 1996.