Hello! It’s Christmas Day! Isn’t that a lovely word—“Christmas”—the very sound of it makes you think of bright snow and blue stars and shining laughing things – especially the “Christ” part – the sound of the word is like bright snow or sunlight. The sound of “God” makes you feel strange too. Not like “Christ,” not bright and shining, but like something glowing deep within you. Words – some of them – seem to come from the very heart of men —some bright and some deep within you. Words are terribly beautiful—sometimes.
December 25, 1939
A clipping from Joan’s scrapbook. A photo from the newspaper in Chicago, 1939.
[Age 18] Christmas 1940
Then on Michigan Blvd I passed suddenly the Cunard window…. An exhibit for the BWR [British War Relief]—pictures of little children in Britain—homes bombed—helmets that could be knitted for the RAF—a noble purpose—but it’s making war in our hearts…The little German children are bombed and hungry too…And all the sudden, in an emotional intensity, I thought, “This may be the last Christmas we shall have”…Christmas 1940…I should be wise and know the world will never end…Time is a funny mirror—sometimes the image is distorted…An unofficial truce played over Christmas in Europe today—Hitler said, “German fliers will not fly on Christmas if British flyers will not.” And they did not…And so a white bloodless Christmas there and the sky is weeping here…Christmas 1940—
And from Jim, Sarah, John and me (Susie): Merry Christmas 2012
Here we are with our dear friend, Don Singer–Happy Holidays to all!
A dear friend in England sent me this link to the website at the BBC called WW2 People’s War.
Pete Smith is a delightful raconteur and eminent scholar, and shared his dad’s adventures with me. Here is one hair-raising story his dad, Roy Smith, shares on the website:
“[S]etting out for a trip to Mannheim, and routed over N.W. London, it seemed that the ground defences had not been informed and we were subjected to some anti-aircraft fire. George, our wireless operator, fired off the colours of the day to no avail. As a precaution, the flight engineer opened the hatch, in case we had to make an emergency escape. Our mid-upper gunner bent down from his turret to see what was going on and seeing the hatch was open, switched on his intercom to contact the pilot. However, when bending down he must have pulled his intercom plug slightly out of the socket, so there was no connection to other crew members. Having seen the open hatch and being unable to communicate with anyone, he assumed that we had all jumped, and quickly followed suit. We were given to understand that he landed in Walthamstow and his parachute had caught on some railings, leaving him suspended a foot or tow above the ground. He was arrested by the Home Guard, but after establishing his identity, was returned to the station.”
Other stories of Roy’s can be read here. And many other stories you can read on this page of the BBC site.
These war memories are so important to have, so that past history is not lost forever. After all, history is made by each one of us, not just politicians and famous people. That’s why my mom, Joan Wehlen Morrison, was an oral historian. The words and stories of everyday people constitute our communal history. Be sure to write down your own story or record the memories of older folks for posterity!
Thanks for sharing, Pete and Roy! I’d like to dedicate this post to Roy who is ill and wish him a speedy recovery.