Policeman Chet Sanborn on motorcycle in front of Drapers on Hopedale Street. During the war years, the shop operated around the clock

                                                 The War Years in Hopedale

                                                            1941 – 1945

  We didn’t feel deprived during the war.  We took what was happening for granted, even though things were sometimes difficult with the rationing. I was delighted once when I had a coupon to get a pair of shoes. We had to plan our use of gas carefully when we wanted to go to the beach for the weekend. When you bought margarine then, it looked like lard. The coloring that made it look more like butter came in a separate wrapper. It was difficult to mix and didn’t always get mixed well. One weekend when we were at Matunuk, a friend was very excited about getting some good meat. It was just hamburg, but it was a better grade of hamburg than was usually available.

  My father would have the radio on for the news frequently and that’s how we heard about Pearl Harbor. I remember hearing Roosevelt’s speech the next day. Years later I went to Hawaii and I cried when I went out to the Arizona.

  Near the end of the war I remember seeing the liberation of the prison camps on the newsreel at the movies in Milford. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

  The men from Hopedale who were killed in the war were near my age, so I knew or knew of them. I worked at Drapers one summer. A woman named Avis worked there and lived nearby. We heard about it when her husband was killed. I remember hearing about Francis Wallace,  Donald Midgley and Robbie Billings. Francis was Marge Horton’s boyfriend when they were in high school. TheHopedale chapter of the National Honor Society is named for him.

  At times there were air raid drills and no light could be showing from any of your windows. The only time my mother worked outside the home was during the war. She worked at Drapers on what was known as the “gun job.” I started teaching at the Dutcher Street School in 1943. I could go home for lunch. With no one there during the day to prepare meals, my father or mother would often make beef stew because it was convenient to heat it at lunchtime.

  In the summer of 1945, I worked at Virgie Earl’s in Milford. That’s where I was when I heard about the end of the war. There was a lot of commotion in the street as people passed the news. Dot (Bell) Stanas


I remember a number of super guys who were killed in World War II, including Robinson Billings,  Donald Midgley,  Francis Wallace and Leverett Clark. They were considered to be the fair-haired boys of Hopedale. There were another eleven from town who were killed, and who were just as wonderful, but those four are the ones I knew.


  I was an infant at the time of Pearl Harbor – just 2 1/2 months old!  The only clear memories I have are of:

  Saving tin cans for the war effort; although I know there were many other household use items that were also saved, I forget the specifics.  I also remember planting a victory garden, with the help of older siblings. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a green thumb then and it didn’t yield a harvest.

   My clearest memory is of celebrations in the street at news of the end of the war – though I don’t recall if it was victory in Europe or Japan.  I had to ask my older siblings awhile back if I had dreamed that or what.  They assured me that it had been real – there we were in our nightwear, yelling and dancing in the middle of Route 140. Liz (Gaskill) Demars                   

  During World War II, the top half of car headlights had to be painted black. We had practice air raid drills. Air raid wardens would walk around the neighborhood and let you know if any light was showing from your house. My father had put a couple of pails of sand in our attic, which had been recommended, in case of an attack by incendiary bombs.

  On days that ration stamps were issued, school would be dismissed at noon. Our teachers, Miss Cressey, Miss Gover, Miss Crowell and others, helped us register for the stamp books. Since my father was a farmer, he could get more gas than many other people.

  Some of the kids would go to the Mendon airport to watch for enemy planes for the Civil Air Patrol. I don’t remember how they got over there.

  When I graduated from high school in 1943 (there were only about six boys still in our class by then), we stayed out most of the night. I don’t think we did much. There was no gas to go anywhere and nothing was open. The next day, my mother woke me up around noon. Drapers had called. They were hiring for war work. I got down there by one and went to work, without a day off after graduation. One summer I worked there spray painting magnetos, which was one of their “war jobs.” Another summer I worked in the shipping room. Orders would come in for parts and we’d get them out of bins. They weren’t making looms during the war, but there would be orders for shuttles, bobbins and various parts.

  After I graduated from high school, I went to Bates College. When I’d come home for a vacation, I’d take a bus to Portland and the train to North Station. Sometimes the train would have to pull over on a siding to let a troop train go by. We’d wonder where they were going and what would happen to them.

  When the milkweed pods were ripe, we’d pick them and put them in paper grocery bags. I think they were used as insulation in vests and jackets. My father must have passed them on to the people who were in charge of dealing with such things.

  I was working at Drapers again in the summer of ’45 when the war ended. On VJ Day, Howard Kinsley and Marion Billings came roaring up the street in a roadster, yelling that the war was over. Drapers closed for the day. People were all over the streets; it was like a parade. There was nothing organized, but I remember that there was lots of activity, and people were excited and happy. Muriel Tinkham


    A couple of memories popped into the brain:Ration stamps for sugar and other condiments. My dad pulling me around Bancroft Park in a galvanized washtub–great noisemaker!  I think he was exempt from the draft by virtue of his weak eyes–couldn’t see a darn thing without his coke-bottle lenses. Phil Roberts


  I remember standing on the front seat of my parents car holding the steering wheel at Westcott’s Mill when Ike Look, my uncles, John and Andrew Nealley, and a few others, had a huge siren that someone had to stand on for weight while others took turns cranking it. Everybody was celebrating the end of the war by making noise. I must have been four and usually I wanted to blow the horn and my parents would tell me no, but that day they wanted me to blow the horn but I was afraid to. My brother John remembers going up in an airplane with David Moroney at the Mendon airport and letting toilet paper fly out of the window of the plane to celebrate. David Atkinson    


   My family and I came from Orange. We had moved to Hopedale before Pearl Harbor, but we were visiting there when we heard about it. My father, brother and uncle had gone out somewhere and had come back to the house with the news. We turned the radio on and listened to the reports of the story.

  I was a senior in high school at that time. Back then we had what was called the “main room.” It was large enough so that all four high school grades would start their day there. The day after the Pearl Harbor attack, Winburn Dennett, the school principal, turned on the big Atwater-Kent radio at the back of the room and we all listened to President Roosevelt’s speech.

  In those days the senior class would go to Washington during the April vacation. We had done our fund-raising and had money in the class treasury for the trip, but because of the war, we didn’t know until about three weeks before that we’d actually be able to go. However, instead of taking a bus to Washington, which was the way it was usually done, we took a bus to Providence and the train to Washington. It was probably the first time I’d ridden on a train. We couldn’t get into a lot of the places that classes before us had visited, but we did get to see the House of Representatives.

  Near the end of the school year, Mr. Dennett said to me, “Besides getting married after you graduate, what else are you going to do?” I told him that I’d be looking for a job. He said that he’d had a call from the Milford National Bank and that they would like to hire a girl from Hopedale to replace one that they were losing. I went over for an interview and I was hired. I worked there for about a year and half.

  I didn’t get a driver’s license for a few years. No one could do much driving anyway. Under rationing, my father was allowed three gallons of gas a week. I suppose some people got more, but we lived on Hope Street, and he worked at Drapers, so he walked to work. My mother did most of her grocery shopping by phone. She’d call in her order and they’d deliver. Shirley (Patenaude) MacNevin  

  We were married on December 25, 1943 and moved to Long Island. I was working there. After high school, I had gone to Parks Air College in East St. Louis. There were 300 aviation cadets there; West Pointers. After graduation, all students who weren’t in the military were confined to the college grounds. Suddenly there were MPs there and they took over. Later we got IDs we had to wear and we were allowed to go out. Besides the cadets, there was a group of Army boys coming in at night learning the same things we were.

  I was in the Naval Reserve. Because I was in that school, I was signed in at Bellville, Illinois. I went to work for American Export Airlines. They had a contract with the Navy to maintain PBYs, PBMs and PB2Ys at LaGuardia.  As an employee of American Export, we didn’t have to pay to fly if seats were available. Once we were going to fly to Boston or Providence and then visit our families in Hopedale. As we were taking a bus to the airport, sirens went off all over the place. It was a blackout. The bus pulled over. It had to stay by the side of the road with its lights out for about a half hour. By the time we got to the airport, we had missed our plane. American Airlines consolidated those of us who had missed the plane on the next flight, but we couldn’t take that one either. It was filled with passengers who had priority. When we finally got a flight and landed, my father was up in arms. I hadn’t called to tell him we’d be late.

  When the war ended we were living on Long Island. New York was crazy that day. Times Square was packed. We didn’t like that kind of thing so we stayed home. We went into Manhattan the next day. Perry MacNevin


  My earliest memory is of my father jacking up our car, a ’39 Plymouth, and putting it on blocks. I suppose I must have asked him what he was doing, and he must have told me that he’d be going away for a while and no one would be driving the car. It remained on the blocks in our garage under the house for the two years that he was in the Army. During that time, when no autos were being produced, my mother had offers from people who wanted to buy it. Since she was living on Dad’s Army pay, it must have been tempting, but she didn’t sell. My father was happy that she didn’t, because it took a long while after the war for car production to catch up with demand, and buyers often had long waits.

  My mother used to save fat, another bit for the war effort, in cans that would be picked up by the Patrick’s deliveryman when he brought the groceries. Dan Malloy


Bud Clement and I write back and forth from time to time, so when I noticed that he was in the picture of the patriotic exercises (top of page, added November 9, 2014), I sent a link to the page to him. Here’s his reply.

Thanks. That’s my American Legion uniform. One thing I remember about the day the war ended. There were lot’s of rumors going around and I was at my main hangout, the bathhouse at the pond. There was a girl life guard, probably a high school senior or a little bit older. She was from out of town, brought in for the summer. She had a convertible car and me and others were riding around to see if the war was over. The only place we could get news was the fire house so we went there many times to get “real news.” We didn’t find out until late in the afternoon but had a lot of fun riding around in the convertible with the pretty life guard. Bud

  Do you or someone you know have memories of the war? The war years in Hopedale, the war in Europe or the Pacific. Send them and I’ll add them to the website. Use the email link on the homepage.

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One way the end of the war was celebrated.