By Marion Hess

In 1944 I was seventeen years old. In February I married Fred who was also seventeen soon to be eighteen in April. We knew that he would be called up for the draft soon afterWWII Kilroy Was Here Marion Hess Coals to NewCastle that birthday. He entered the Army in July. In the few months we had together I learned that he loved canned pineapple tidbits which brings me to the point of this story

After he left to go to war, I returned home to live with my parents in a row house on a narrow street in Philadelphia, PA. Everyone lived with the wartime restrictions and the precious ration books issued to all. There were coupons for everything, gas, shoes, food etc. Our daily menus depended on how many coupons one had in addition to the price of the food and hereby hangs this tale.

The neighborhood was close knit. There were many servicemen flags hanging in the windows, a blue star denoting someone serving or a gold star for someone killed in action. We were all in the same boat , sharing experiences and news and helping when needed. It was a tense but wonderful camaraderie. All of us "grass widows" spent a lot of time writing to our men, some in Europe, mine in the South Pacific and one in Burma. The highlight of the day was the arrival of the mailman.

As mentioned above, I knew my soldier loved pineapple and since canned fruit or anything with sugar in it was high priced, not everyone used those coupons. So at the beginning of each month when my allotment check arrived , I would canvas my friends and collect their unused coupons and buy canned pineapple tidbits. I sent Fred a box every month containing numerous items that I knew he could use and the precious pineapple.

These care packages were a labor of love. It made me happy that I could send him something I knew he would enjoy and remind him of home and better times. The mail we received from them were heavily censored and could contain no references to where they were or what they were doing but as the war wound down they were able to write more details . Then one day the anxiously awaited mailman brought me a letter which informed me that they were camped on the huge Del Monte pineapple plantation on Mindanao in the Philippine Islands. So my crusade ended. No more canned pineapple got sent since there is no comparison between canned fruit and that pulled ripe and sweet from the warm earth. In the 45 years following those times, we had many a good laugh at my sending my " Coals to Newcastle".

WWII Kilroy Was Here Marion Hess Coals to NewCastle A Walk Up The Avenue
A Walk Up The Avenue

by Marion E. Hess

I was nine days short of my fifteenth birthday on the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. I lived in Wildwood, N.J. a seashore island which up to that time had provided an idyllic childhood. In the summer when the vacationers came, we spent our days at the beach enjoying the sand and the ocean. In the winter when they had all gone home and we had our island to ourselves again we were free to roam and ride our bikes . All that changed in the months following Dec.7,1941.

WWII Kilroy Was Here Marion Hess Coals to NewCastle Marion Hess at 14
Marion Hess at 14
 Everyone during the war years lived with shortages, ration coupons, civil defense, scrap drives etc. Our island was transformed . We had blackouts because of the German U-Boats patrolling up and down the east coast. The entire east coast was under blackout orders but this was not totally successful. While all the lights were painted black on the side facing the sea and headlights on cars were partially painted, enough light was visible that it silhouetted any ship in the shipping lanes off the coast . It was particularly dangerous off the coast of the major cities and the U-Boats had a field day.The island which during winter months was pretty much deserted except for us "natives" became popular with the sailors from the Naval Air Station in Cape May, an island just south of us. I remember the day I saw an F4U Corsair fly over and I thought it was so beautiful. It looked
like a seagull. I also remember riding my bike one afternoon on the deserted boardwalk . Looking out to sea I saw ships in every direction. They looked like warships to me. Perhaps it was the formation of a convoy. It didn't take long for the beautiful white sandy beach to become a tarry mess along the waters edge.

I was a sophomore in high school and one afternoon , Mrs.Gulick, my biology teacher asked me to go to her apartment a few blocks up the avenue and get something for her. I can't remember what I retrieved for her but I'll never forget what I saw while going there. Her house was located next door to Ingersolls, the only funeral parlor in town and just as I got there two grey stake trucks pulled into their parking area. In the back of the trucks were bundles wrapped in a black material. I stood across the street and watched the unloading of the vehicles and it dawned on me that these bundles were the bodies of seamen which had washed up on the beach from a torpedoed freighter . In that instant the war became a reality for me.

Prior to this event I had spent the best part of my life on the beach and in the ocean. I was a good swimmer and loved diving into the breakers and riding the waves. On that spring day in 1942 the ocean ceased to represent recreation and fun to me. In the fifty five years that have transpired since then I could count the times on one hand that I've been in the ocean. It came to represent death to me and I was sure that I'd step on a hand or arm. If I close my eyes, I can still see those grey Coast Guard trucks. I guess one could say that my childhood was also a casualty of the U-Boat war . .

WWII Kilroy Was Here Marion Hess Coals to NewCastle

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