Shirley Turnock

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A Marion teenager's life during World War II.

Interview: Shirley Turnock (st)
Medium: Audio and video tape
Date: April 13, 1998
Place: Kendall Elementary School in Marion, Indiana
Collected by: Christy Dollar (cd)

cd: Okay, state your whole name and where we are.

st: My name is Shirley Turnock. I was known as Lee Skinner during the war. We're in Marion, Indiana. This is April 13, 1998.

cd: And we're at Kendall School, right?

st: Kendall School.

cd: Okay, do I have permission to tape you with an audio tape?

st: Yes you do.

cd: And video tape?

st: Yes you do.

cd: And I have permission to submit this information to the Marion Public Library?

st: Yes.

Before the war

cd: Okay, now I just have some general questions. Where did you live during World War II?

st: Well, we lived at 1528 West First Street and then we moved to 1521 South Boots Street.

cd: Okay, and how many people were in your family during this time?

st: Well, there was my dad, and my sister Ellie, who's three years older then I am. Then my brother Dan, who's seven years younger.

cd: And about how old were you around the year of 1940?

st: Okay, I was born in 1927, so I was 15.

cd: Okay, now before the war actually began I just wanted to know what your life was like. What was your family life like in your home before the war?

st: Well, we didn't have television. Mom had a piano, and she played the piano a lot. And we'd sing barber shop quartet. You know and we'd sit on the front porch a lot in the summer and visit. And oh dad would tell stories about when he was a kid. It was just real laid back. And of course friends would come over. There was a lot of socializing.

cd: Could you tell me what life your social life was like? Maybe including the time you spent at school or with some of your friends?

st: Now this is before the war?

cd: Yes.

st: Let's see, I was 13, 15 in there. We walked everywhere, and I played kick the can and different games like that out in the alley with the neighborhood kids. And, oh we went to movies, basketball games, just church. We went to First Christian Church. And, oh it was mostly you know doing things with other friends.

cd: Alright. Can you tell me where your school was located?

st: It was where Hilltop Towers is now. And we lived at sixteenth and Boots. So that was quite a walk. I walked back and forth to school, came home at noon.

cd: Did you work anywhere before the war started?

st: When I was 14, I got a job at Meadowgold Icecream, which is oh at the top of the hill on Third Street. And I worked there...oh this was before the war started.

cd: Was the money for yourself or was it for the whole family?

st: It was mostly for myself, but it took the burden off of my familt of providing me for certain things. I had my own money.

cd: Did you enjoy working there?

st: Oh, I loved it. Yeah, I loved it, and a lot of the kids would come in. And you know hilltop, right across the street, was where most of the kids went. But, then a lot of them would come to Meadowgold too and hang out after school.

cd: Okay. Did your parents work before the war?

st: Yeah, but I can't tell you right off hand where. I know Dad worked, I don't think mom did.

The war years

cd: When the war actually did begin, how old were you then?

st: Let's see, that was in '42, December 7, 1942 or '41.

cd: Right.

st: I must've been 15.

cd: I'm sure there were many changes due to the war. Did you see a change in the way your family carried on their lives?

st: Yes, it was quite different. Mom and Dad both went to work at Farnsworth Radio because so many of the young men were gone, and there was more money in the house. And, well things were just different. We were worried about different friends and boys had to go to service. And first people were...they just kept their ears glued to the radio, read the newspapers. Find out all the things that were going on and everything.

cd: Were there any more financial problems now that the war began? Did things change with the jobs?

st: Yeah, it was a lot better. We had more things except for the fact that there were so many things that were rationed that you couldn't get. My dad was a big coffee drinker, and coffee was rationed. Sugar was, gasoline, just tires, just about everything.

cd: Were family holidays different during the war, like about Easter or Christmas?

st: Well, see we were the lucky ones. We didn't have a boy of military age, and so our life actually didn't change that much. My brother was younger. But, a lot of my cousins and neighbors and different things. It really changed a lot. Now my grandpa, my grandfather and grandmother were born in Holland, excuse me, and they did all they could to send things back to their relatives in Holland and different things like that. But, I don't think it changed that much.

cd: Did your family find theirselves helping out other people or anything like that during these times?

st: Help other people here in the states?

cd: Yeah, like just in Marion or anything? Did you have any friends where maybe their husbands went to war that you helped out?

st: Well, it wasn't anything that unusual that I would remember. It was just the people were closer then, and they tried to do more things for people. And, we shared worries and concerns and everything.

cd: Did your school change when the war was going on? Were there a lot of changes at school?

st: It changed quite a bit. There was one boy that was drafted out of the eighth grade and I noticed. I think I was a sophomore the year the war started, and the older boys you know started going to war and everything. And it became more and more girls that were doing things. We still had enough boys for a good basketball team. And, but as...and a lot of the girls had boyfriends, that was quite a status to have a boyfriend in the army or navy or something.

cd: Were there any opinions influenced by anything that you heard like any of your friends by the news or radio? Were influences, opinions influenced by the propaganda or anything?

st: Well, since I've grown older and I've learned more, I think the propaganda was really, really strong. But, at the time we didn't realize it to be propaganda. I mean we just, everything they said we just believed. We just swallowed it whole. And it was so black and white. I mean it was just, you know, the Japanese and the German were so horrible and we were just absolutely scared to death of them. And then after the war was over we started helping them and we found out they weren't so bad and all that. And I've never have really fot it through my head how much was true and how much was propaganda. But at the time, I believed everything.

cd: Did your behavior, like when your friends and you went out, was it changed? Did you have as much fun or were there more worries?

st: Okay, are we talking about during the war now?

cd: Yes

st: Yeah it changed quite a bit because the girls all went out together in groups because we didn't have dates and things so much because so many of the eligible guys were in the service. But there was the Millers Supperclub. We used to go down there. And I know they served alcohol and everything, but we just didn't buy it. You know, but we danced and they did the Jitterbug and slow dancing. Girls would dance with girls. We'd go to the movies together and everything like that. You know, talk about boyfriends and stuff.

cd: Did the girls write letters to their boyfriends?

st: Oh yes, yeah. And not only to our boyfriends, maybe a neighbor would say they had a son or nephew or something. We'd write to service men we didn't know too. You know, just to help keep their spirits up.

cd: Right. Well, was there a change in your job from before the war to during the war?

st: Well, I changed. It wasn't because of the war, but I got a job at the Lunalight Theatre. And it was just because I was older and it paid a little bit more. And that was a lot of fun. You know, after school and gosh I didn't take things very seriously. And sometimes I'd ride a bicycle up and down the aisles and go up in the projection room and throw bottle caps at the audience. A lot of things like that. Parents would park their kids there, they'd buy a ten cent ticket and park them there for the whole afternoon to babysit them.

cd: Did your working keep your mind off the war at times?

st: Oh, yes , but we didn't worry about it all the time. I don't know how to explain it. I think probably part of it was my age, but it was kind of exhilarating too. I mean the guys in uniform looked so cute. I mean it wasn't all worry, but I mean as I say too we were very concerned about the different battles and things that we heard about. But, I don't know it was just a different kind of time. I don't know how much of it is due to my age. I mean because I was like 15 to 18 through there, and how much of it was. You know, you want to have fun at that age.

cd: Right.

st: And, I'm sure the older people were a lot more worried and concerned, and the ones that had boys in the service were really concerned.

cd: Did you notice that any of the movies that came in, did they reflect any of the happenings at that time?

st: Yeah, the songs and the movies like, "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer," and, "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else but Me." I think, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" was popular during that time. Tony Orlando made it popular later. And the movies I don't really remember their names in particular, but there were a lot of tear jerkers. Yeah.

cd: So your parents worked at a different place during the war? Is that what you said before?

st: No, they worked at Farnsworth Radio, which is Thomson Electric now. And one thing I did notice before the war, you know a woman just absolutely would not work in a factory and keep her reputation both you know. And it made it acceptable for women to work in factories after that. And there were so many things that we couldn't get like silk stockings because silk was made in Japan. So, we wore leg makeup. Smeared it all over our legs so our legs would look tan. And it got... walked through a room and a davenport there and you left leg makeup all over it. A whole lot of things like that. I lose track. You ask me a question and I kind of lose track of what I'm talking about.

cd: That's ok. Were there any memorable war experiences that you recall, just anything that was really out of the ordinary?

st: Well, no. I can't think of any right now except the daily news. You know whatever was on the news and we listened to and read in the paper. But I know Pearl Harbor Day, it was just, I mean people just couldn't grasp it. It was so horrendous. I mean something that we had just never dreamed that anyone would do something like that. That was really upsetting to everybody and of course I just adored Franklin Roosevelt. I mean you know he was kind of an idol. If I'm not mistaken, yeah, he died during the war. And we were, the whole nation, I think grieved even people that weren't paricularly his political party. Because he gave us kind of a father figure. A feeling of everything was going to be alright.

cd: Was that something that most of the families did? When the news was on everybody was either listening or watching usually?

st: Oh yeah. We wouldn't miss the news. And there were different boys, I only remember one or two that got killed during the war. But they had two airfields: South Marion Airport and West Marion Airport. And so many of the boys wanted to be pilots and stuff. And they'd go out and take flying lessons. The Civil Air Patrol, I belonged to that. I certainly didn't do much to protect my country, but I felt like I was doing something. And quite a few of them, my cousin, Uncle Charlie's boy, Charles, got killed in and airplane accident cause Uncle Charlie didn't want him to go to war. He was married and Charles wanted to sign up so Uncle Charlie bought him an airplane. He was flying at South Marion Airport one day and his wife and kids were on the ground waiting for him and he crashed and got killed. So, Uncle Charlie always blames himself for that. But, I don't know it that would have anything to do with the war. But, Uncle Charlie wanted him to stay home so that didn't work out.

cd: Did some of the guys find it...did any of the guys find it exciting to go to war?

Future husband is drafted

st: Oh yes, yeah. A lot of times they'd really be you know all proud of themselves and everything like that except my poor husband. He was a small man to begin with and he was 18 when he got drafted.

cd: And this was before you were married?

st: Yeah, oh yeah. Before I ever knew him. And he left on V-J Day, Victory in Japan. He was on an airplane going out to someplace in California and he said he'd go past these stations and everybody was celebrating the end of the war. And he was sitting there crying. He had a cardboard suitcase and it had got wet somewhere along the line, and he had to hold that in his lap. He wasn't too happy about the end of the war, but...

V-J Day and beyond

cd: The day that the war ended was there anything significant that you remember?

st: Yeah, by then I was working at the telephone company. I graduated in June and the war ended in August of 1945. And I wasn't quite 18. I wasn't 18 till the twenty-fourth, so I couldn't work past ten o'clock. But we were up there and all of the sudden the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. Every single light on that board lit up and it had been announced over the radio that Truman had dropped the bomb and the war was over. Japan had surrendered. Everyone was trying to call everyone else. They had the older operators, they called everybody in. They had the older operators...you know that was back when it was manual you had to put the plug in...making the calls, and the younger operators going around taking down the disconnects. And of course everybody was laughing and crying and everything. I went out to the operators lounge and there was Deannie. I can't think of her last name. But she was sitting in one of those big chairs just sobbing because her husband had been killed in the war in just a matter of weeks before that. That was sad. That's always going to remain in my memory.

cd: Was there anything significant about your reaction or were you just really surprised?

st: We weren't completely surprised because the news had started turning. I mean at first we really though Japan might win, and we were really scared of them. You know, the propaganda, you know they made them out to be little monsters and everything. The last few months before the end of the war, America was beginning to win more of the battles and everything. It wasn't a complete surprise. Now the atomic bomb was a complete surprise. And it might not have been to the older people or more educated people and stuff but it to a small town like Marion. We were really taken by surprise. And at the time we didn't think of the ethics in it or anything else. All we thought about was thank God the war is over now. And afterwards of course people got into the pros and cons of it and the rights. But at the time it was just a tremendous relief.

cd: So, did any of your friends or any of the guys come back and tell you of what had happened and everything. Did they have stories?

st: Oh, probably somewhat I didn't know that many guys who had been in. My sister married a man who had been in the Pacific. He just plain didn't want to talk about it. I think some of the boys that had been over there, it was nothing like they had thought it was going to be. They went away and they were boys. They came back and they were men. So many things about them had changed. I think they did want to talk about it to other men, but they didn't. I didn't hear that many people talking. But, as I said our family was different. We didn't have a boy of military age.

cd: After the war were things the same as before or was it really changed?

st: It was completely different. As I said they went away boys and they came back men. They came back and they wanted jobs, and they wanted good jobs. They wanted to start a family. They wanted to be married and put all of this ugliness behind them. So there was a huge housing boom and the economy just picked up tremedously and inflation started. During the war, I'm not sure, I think you could buy a loaf of bread for about a nickel. And I know a pound of hamburger was 15 cents, 17 cents if you got the really good stuff. And when I started working for the telephone company it was $17 a week. And even within two or three months, you know, I think I got a seven dollar raise a week or something, which doesn't sound like much but it really was. And well, everybody wanted things. The GI Bill allowed some of the boys to go to college who probably would not have had the chance. The people were different because here this was a sleepy little town where people didn't go to Europe and didn't go places. You know do a whole lot, and all of the sudden these boys came back and they had these experiences and tastes for food. And liked to travel, and wanted to show their parents, girlfriends, and families some of these different places. And they started making pizza and chop suey. Everything like that. They were just different you know. And I don't know, it seemed like my age and the country at that time kind of coincided. I mean it was like from childhood to adolescence to adult, and I happened just to be at that particular age at that time. Things just weren't ever the same after the war. It was good, I'm not saying it was bad just different.

cd: Did your family act a lot different? Did everything still, was everything still the same as you said like laid back as before or was it a lot different at home?

st: Well, that was just my mom and dad. They liked to talk and play the piano and sing. We didn't have television. And I think right around that time in there, I'm not sure when it was invented, but I do know it wasn't a common thing to have a television until after the war. And they finally got one and everything, but I got married. Let's see, when I was 21 so that was the first time in 1948. He died then I married Dick in '51. So I was away from the family you know. But, I don't think they really changed that much. I can't say that for the rest of the families. But just from my experience there wasn't that much change.

cd: So did you graduate before the war ended or after the war ended?

st: I graduated in June of '45 which was just previous. It was after V-E Day, Victory in Europe and before V-J Day, so...

cd: So was graduation different?

st: Well, there weren't as many boys in graduation but I think they tried to keep things pretty much the same. And some of the boys came back and got their diplomas on the GI Bill because it wasn't uncommon for a boy to quit high school of he was old enough and join the army or navy.

cd: So is there anything else you would like to add to any of this? If you were changed as a person or anything. If there was a really big effect that the whole war had on you?

st: Well, I don't know. I try to sort it out in my mind. I don't know how much was the war and how much was my age in growing up. But it really did have a profound effect on me. I don't know. It seemed like I appreciated things more than I had before. And, it was nice to have everyone back and you know start families and just not have that worry there all the time.

cd: Is there anything else that you would care to say?

st: Well, I can't think of anything in particular.

cd: Well thank you for doing this interview.

st: Oh, you're more than welcome.