Letter to my Grand-Daughter, Laura Lynn
By Carmen Munoz Carvajal Powell
Edited by Pamela Carvajal Drapala
November 11, 2003
The following letter was addressed to our oldest daughter when she was in fourth grade attending Rolle School. Laura’s class was studying their family roots.
Dear Laura Lynn,
It was Sunday, December 7, 1941, my Grandmother, mother and a few relatives were in the kitchen which was rather large and one of the aunts was pressing something on the ironing board when my cousin walked in saying that they had bombed Pearl Harbor.
I did not realize how serious this was. I was in my early teens from a small town, which is Yuma, Arizona. The only way we would get our news was from the radio, which we listened to every day and we would also get the newspaper where we got most of our news.
We would go to the movies on Sunday and Saturday and they would have the world news on the screen before the show started. We would go to the Yuma Theater; it was nice in there because it was air-conditioned. Then there were very few homes that were refrigerated; only the very well off had that luxury.
We had a wooden stove on the other end was kerosene. The only warm place in the house was the kitchen where we would get dressed in front of the stove, before we went to school. There would be a pot of hot coffee and warm oatmeal on the stove and of course my grandmother (Lola (Dolores)) would have a little pan of prunes on top of the stove cooking.
We did not have hot running water; we had to heat the water in a kettle for the dishes. I was the one that did the dishes, which I was not very happy to do. It took me a long time to do the dishes, because I would let the water evaporate in the kettle several times before I would do the dishes. Then we were not told to set the table or pick the dishes up, we knew we had to do that.
Every evening we would have our big dinners. On Sundays everyone would go to church, and we had to wear hats, which were very pretty. Then in the afternoon we would have a nice dinner like pot roast or fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Sometimes when I would do the cooking, I would open a can of carrots with peas instead of fixing fresh vegetables, and my grandfather (Nacho Ignacio)) would say, “Mijeta, you cut the carrots so neat and square.” Of course he did not approve of having canned vegetables because we were used to the fresh vegetables. But then, I was the youngest, and I wanted to do things a little easier.
In those days we had extra beds in the back yard, and we all slept outside in the cool refreshing air and all the beds were in a roll, when we went to bed early, the stars would come out, and we would see who would find the most stars or who would find the little dipper or the big dipper first or make a wish when we would be a shooting star. We never locked our house. After the military came to Yuma, we no longer were able to sleep outdoors.
This town was booming with all the soldiers and their wives were getting stationed here. We did not have motels then. I only remember a couple of hotels, The San Carlos and Del Sol. So some people rented a room to couples, and they could use the kitchen. We met a lot of them since we also rented a room out. The officer’s wives were able to stay in the hotels.
We had a shortage of laundry soap, silk stockings, meat, gasoline, and a number of things, which I do not recall. Oh! There was a shortage of sugar. We did not have real butter, we had to buy some kind of white margarine and we had to break a capsule with orange food color and mixed this all together in a bowl. This was one of the chores. I believe we had ration coupon books that we would tear for certain items.
They did not make those pretty sheer stockings anymore and sheer stockings were a must. My aunt (Amalia or Irene) and a friend of hers would put on their stocking which were made of a different material. They would rub hair oil on their stockings, and they would appear sheerer.
There were a lot of young men that were drafted from Yuma; a few got killed. My aunt had three sons that went to war and they were fortunate that they came home safe. My mother’s cousin was a Military Police in England. Just before he was to return home, he went to separate a couple of soldiers that were fighting, and they killed him, he was to be best man at his sister’s wedding.
During this time the ladies had beautiful dresses and pretty high heel shoes and every night they would curl their hair with pin curls and in the morning they would wear big pompadour. They would roll something in the front part of their head so that it would make their hair higher. What they put on their hair was like a wad of cotton, the color of their hair. One windy day, this lady was walking home from work, and one of those wads fell out of her hair and rolled across the street, and she ran after it; it was a sight!
During the war they recommended that we did not travel because there were so many military men traveling on trains, and they came first. My Grandmother (Lola) and I were going to California and this soldier offered us his seat on the train, after a long time, he asked us for his seat back, so we had to stand most of the way. Grandma was a little upset.
Along the coast in San Diego it was camouflaged, they had nets from building to building so it would appear that there weren’t buildings there. So the enemy would not be able to identify the defense plants. The enemy couldn’t take pictures of it.
VJ Day was Victory in Japan that is when the United States dropped the bomb in Yokohama and Hiroshima. My Grandmother was reading the newspaper and was telling me about the bomb. I said, “That can’t be!” And she said, “Yes, it is right here in the paper, read it!” After the second bomb was dropped, the Japanese surrendered and that was the end of the war.