There is one front and one battle where everyone in the United States—every man, woman, and child—is in action and will be privileged to remain in action throughout this war. That front is right here at home, in our daily lives and in our daily tasks. Here at home everyone will have the privilege of making whatever self-denial is necessary, not only to supply our fighting men, but to keep the economic structure of our country fortified and secure during the war and after the war.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s radio broadcast to the nation, April 28, 1942

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

December 8, 1941


DECEMBER 8, 1941

Yesterday, all was confusion.
Today we got out the big map
of the world and laid it flat
on the table so we could see.

We found the Hawaiian Islands.
Pearl Harbor was there somewhere,
but, it wasn’t marked. We saw
Hawaii as a stepping stone.

"Look at Japan," said Mother.
"How tiny it is compared to America.
There shouldn’t be anything to worry about."
Then just after noon, the president spoke...

"Yesterday the Japanese Government also
launched an attack against Malaya...
Hong Kong…Guam…the Philippine Islands...
Wake Island…Midway Island..."

We all went back to the map
and studied the Pacific area.
I learned more geography today
than I have all year at school.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Pearl Harbor photo courtesy FDR Library. Poster stamp from author's personal collection.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bundles for Britain



For nearly a year now
we’ve been sending
Bundles for Britain;
packages for Aunt Isabelle
and her two children.
We’ve always sent
a shirt or socks for
each cousin and a little
something for Auntie, too.
Things to keep them warm
in the underground shelters
where they are forced to stay
while the Germans bomb
the moxie out of London.

Now, we’re at war with Germany.
And Japan. And Italy.
All our Allies are in
the thick of it.
Sometimes I wonder
who will be left to send
Bundles for America?

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oh Boy!



Oh boy! Oh boy!
We’re gettin’ a puppy!
Dad sent a picture
of himself at camp.
He’s holdin’ a puppy!

He didn’t write
that it’s mine,
but I know it is.
Dad knows how
much I want a dog!

Oh boy! Oh boy!
We’re gettin’ a puppy!
I can hardly wait!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 11, 2011




The word was on the
blackboard in chalk.
"It’s pronounced,
I stuck my hand up and asked,
"What does it mean, Miss Lehrer?"
"It means being
unnecessarily afraid of,
or hateful toward, foreigners."

She made us think of examples:
--Posters showing Japanese soldiers
with big buck teeth.
--Townspeople refusing to buy
milk from the old German milkman.
--The rumors that went around
saying the DiMaggio brothers
wouldn’t be playing ball because
their father came from Italy.

"But why do we have
to know such a big word
in the sixth grade," I asked.
"Because, Alice," Miss Lehrer said,
"my father is the milkman."

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Air Raid!




At the sound of the first siren,
Daddy leaves the house
to take his post as
Civil Defense block captain.
The rest of us run around
putting up black-out curtains
(sneaking a peek outside) and
turning off unnecessary lights
(a bathroom light is a necessity).


At the second siren,
we move the kitchen table
away from the window
(but within reach of the cookie jar).
Before the siren stops,
Mom, Josephine, and I
crawl under the table.
Mom starts to pray.
Josie and I pretend to pray,
but really, we play a game
of stealth-kicking until


All clear!

We climb out from under,
take down the black-out curtains,
turn on the lights,
move the kitchen table back
to its place by the window.
By the time Daddy
walks in the door,
dinner is on the table
but we’re too full of cookies
to eat.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photos courtesy Library of Congress: home scene, air raid warden. Poster courtesy National Archives.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Square Dance



I’ve always watched
the hands of women
as they sat on front porches
knitting and crocheting.

The dance of wool and needle
is a mystery to me.
I’m a lefty and somehow
my hands don’t dance.

But now I’ve got a
good reason to master
the complicated steps—
the Ladies’ League.

The Ladies’ League
is collecting squares.
Six inches by six inches.
Knitted or crocheted.

My square will be
joined to someone else’s.
And ours to yet another’s
until a blanket appears!

A snuggly warm blanket
for a cold and lonely soldier
who dreams of once again
dancing with a girl.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Poster courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011




To put it plainly,
the Japanese have been
whuppin’ us.

Pearl Harbor,
the Phillipines,
and then the Coral Sea.

Pounding us silly.
Killing our boys.
Humiliating America.

But at Midway
our glorious Navy downed
more than 300 planes.

They destroyed
the Kaga, the Soryu,
the Hiryu, and the Akagi.

Three of these carriers
had surprised us at
Pearl Harbor.

Now it’s our turn
for surprises!
Revenge is sweet.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011




I sure don’t like sharing
my house and my mama
with the rest of the world.
But, for the duration,
we will have boarders
'cause as Mama says,
"We gotta keep body and
soul together, somehow."

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Don't Even Know Him



Dad said, "Uncle Sam
called and he needs me."

Grandpa said, "He owes
it to Uncle Sam to go."

Who is this Uncle Sam?
He's never come by the house.

He's never been at Grandpa's
for Thanksgiving dinner.

Mama can't say his name
without busting out in tears.

You know what? I don't think
he's my uncle at all.

There's one thing I do know--
he's taking daddy away.

And I don't like him.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Poster courtesy National Archives.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Bus



The bus is fairly crowded.
A dark-haired girl
of about my age
sits alone in the seat
opposite mine,
her face turned
toward the window.

A woman of my mother’s age
climbs aboard.
She could be
anyone’s mother—
a typical American woman.
She walks down the aisle.
The girl turns to face her.

The woman stops.
Her face contorts.
She purses her lips.
A glob of spit flies across the aisle.
"Go back to Japan!" she hisses
as the girl wipes her face.

It’s funny how everyone
on the bus suddenly
finds something of interest
to look at through the window
or down at their feet—
including me.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Saturday, June 4, 2011




The number of hours it takes
to fill a potato sack to the top
with milkweed pods.

The number of life jackets
that can be stuffed with the fluff
collected by seven girl scouts.

The number of sailors
who will not drown because
they’ll have new life jackets.

The number of movie stars
my friends and I can name
in an afternoon spent picking pods.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Children with milkweed pods photo courtesy UNH. Ship photo from author's personal collection.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Clean Plate Club



In the Great War, Mom was a member
of the Clean Plate Club. She says we
have to be members, too. "It isn't
voluntary--it's mandatory!" She tells us
over and over. And over, again!

I never had a problem being a member
of the Clean Plate Club, I love to eat—
even vegetables. My little brother, though,
is always being scolded and called,
"Hitler’s Helper." That’s what happens

when you’re fussy. I cannot understand
what cleaning your plate has to do with
winning the war. As a matter of fact,
I think Stevie’s lima beans should be
saved and sent to the troops as ammo.

When you let them sit on a plate long
enough, they become deadly. Stevie
and me have a plan. From now on,
he’s going to sneak his vegetables
under the table to me. That way we’ll

both be members of the Clean Plate Club,
Mom can stop nagging, and Hitler will
have to find another new helper.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Lima bean can label from author's personal collection. Posters at the top and bottom courtesy Northwestern University Library.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Scrap Metal



We took the wagon round
to the back of the barn
and dug through the trash heap
to find dozens of old tin cans,
a rusted tractor seat, one
cracked iron skillet, two
bent bicycle wheels (from
George’s daredevil days),
snippets of bailing wire too short
to use, and an old umbrella
with just a tatter of black cloth
on its ribs. These we piled upon
the wrought iron gate that
had guarded the graveyard
that held the bones of
grandma, and her mother and father,
and the baby that had died
before daddy had even been born.
We hoped mama wouldn’t see it,
but if she did, we’d say it was
for Georgie. For bullets to
keep the enemy away. For tanks
to stop the enemy’s advances.
For anything that would help
keep my brother out
of that family graveyard.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Poster courtesy Northwestern University Library.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Better Than New



I go to the movies
to look at the fashions.
I study Schiaparelli’s designs
in the magazines.

Lucky for me, Mother
and Grandmother never
throw anything away.
They’ve kept their old dresses
and using a little
Yankee ingenuity
I take apart those frocks
and make them over

better than new.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. July 1943 Vogue fashion spread, and poster stamp, from author's personal collection. Photo courtesy University of Maryland.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pledge of Allegiance



I was taught the Pledge
at a very young age.
Stand arrow straight.
Raise your hand to the flag.
Speak clearly.

We don’t do it
that way anymore.
We still stand straight.
We still speak clearly.
But we place our hands
across our hearts.

Raising our hands up high
looked too much
like a "Heil Hitler" salute.
That may be, but it’s awfully hard
breaking an old habit.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Old style pledge and new style pledge photos courtesy Library of Congress.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tin Can Commando



I’m the Tin Can Commando
for these three square blocks.
My job is to tell people how
to get cans ready for pickup.
Each Saturday a truck will come
(although sometimes it’ll be
Mr. Bruno and his horsecart)
to pick up your cans at the curb.

Now here’s what you have to do:
1. take off the top and bottom...
Oops, wait a second...
1. clean the can and take off the label.
2. THEN take off the top and bottom.
3. place them inside the can.
4. crush the can.
5. place at the curb.

You should bundle up
newspapers for pickup, too.
What? You want instructions?
Okay. Here’s what you have to do:
1. read the newspaper...

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Top photo courtesy Library of Congress. Middle photo courtesy FDR Library. Poster courtesy Northwestern University Library.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sleepover Camp



I saw Natsu the day
she and her family
left for camp in April.
There were no shouts,
"See you in a few weeks!"
There were no giggles
of excitement at the prospect
of sleeping in a tent.

Natsu, will you sing
around a campfire?
Will you swim
in cool clear waters?
Will you make yet another
knotted lanyard?
Will you write?

Natsu, my friend,
will you be coming home?

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Evacuation instructions photo courtesy FDR Library.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Flight Training



Dad is finishing
flight training soon.
He has a brown leather jacket
with a lambswool collar.
I bet even his pants
are made of leather.

Mother keeps his picture
on the table near the Philco.
Gosh, he sure looks handsome.

I like it when he sends
me postcards from the base.
Silly postcards
that make me laugh.
Dad is always willing
to poke fun at himself.

He once told me,
"If you laugh at yourself,
you’ll always be amused."

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy David C. Foster. Postcard from author's personal collection.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bacon and Eggs



Gosh, I really loved bacon.
I loved the sound of the sizzle
as the bacon hit the hot iron pan.

A yummy sound!

The bacon crackled.
It popped and a shower
of grease fell over the stove.

The smell. Mmm!

I used to love my eggs scrambled
in the hot grease that was left
after the bacon was lifted from the pan.

Oh, my mouth watered.

But no more.
Now mother fries it
crisper than crisp.

Nearly burnt.

Then she grabs a towel,
hefts the heavy black pan
and pours off every drop of grease.

The eggs are kinda dry.

The grease I take
downtown on Saturday
where we stand in line
waiting for Mrs. Johnston
to collect it in a drum.

It is sent away and
made into explosives!
Bombs sizzle! Kaboom!
I imagine bacon scented death
raining down on the enemy.

I used to love bacon and eggs.
Most days now, I prefer oatmeal.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Poster courtesy Northwestern University Library. "Stop" poster stamp from author's personal collection. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Dictionary



Half the time I
don’t know what
my brother is talking about
in his letters.

I went to the public library
and borrowed a copy
of The War Dictionary.
I studied it cover to cover.

Now, when Stanley
writes that he’s spending
time bubble dancing,
I know he’s been washing dishes!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. The War Dictionary from author's personal collection.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Bumps Were the Best Part



Our school is super!
We collected enough money
in bond sales to buy a jeep!

As a thank you,
two men in uniform drove
our jeep to the school.

Since Annie collected the most,
she got to christen it.
Lucky her!

Then came time for a ride—
I was first in line.
The bumps were the best part!

Next week
we start saving
for a tank.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Captioned: Chicago schoolchildren buy 263,148.83 in war bonds. In a special war bond campaign which began April fourteenth and was ended May twelfth, the public schoolchildren of the South-Central District of Chicago purchased 263,148.83 in war bonds and stamps, enough money to by 125 jeeps, two pursuit planes and a motorcycle. Photo shows one of the jeeps being christened in the war bond rally in Washington Park on June fourth. Twenty-four public schools participated in the campaign. Poster stamp from author's personal collection. Poster courtesy University of Maryland.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011




I take a sketch pad
with me everywhere.
I practice drawing--
composition and perspective--
every day except Sunday.
I’ve been studying the
Home Course in Cartooning
for two whole months!
Ask me anything about
complementary colors.
Go ahead, ask!

Sister Mary Thomas
says that twelve
may be a little young
for painting bombers,
but, since she’s
a patron of the arts,
she’ll let me repaint
the storeroom walls.

Hey, da Vinci painted walls--
you have to start somewhere!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photos, top, middle, and bottom courtesy Library of Congress.

Monday, May 23, 2011

For the Duration



Mama says Ida needs care.
We’re her closest relations.
We can’t get enough gasoline
to check on her often enough,
so she’ll have to move here

for the duration.

Don’t get me wrong,
I love Aunt Ida,
but what thirteen-year-old
wants to share a room
with an old lady

for the duration?

I’ll have to check the dictionary
and make sure "duration"
doesn’t mean forever.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Patriotic Duty



What a lecture I got
from Miss Lyles
when I said I couldn’t
stand readin' all the time.

It’s your patriotic duty to read!

In short order, she
told me about the Nazis
burnin' books,
and the Japanese doin' it, too.

You’re free to read anything you want!

I don’t wanna read anythin'
I said under my breath.
But she heard and now
I’m havin' to read Moby Dick.

I guess you can call me a patriot.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Top and bottom posters courtesy Northwestern University Library.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Model Airplanes



For years I made model airplanes.
I have sixteen hanging from
the ceiling of my room.

My sister thought it was
a childish hobby until
the war began.

Now my sister and I
lie on my floor
and memorize the shapes

of the enemy.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Boys At Play



I've been watching Mrs.
Quincy's little ones while
she puts in overtime
at the factory. If it wasn't
my patriotic duty I would
have quit long ago. Her
boys are savages--it's war,
war, war. And guns, guns,
guns. Bombs and death
every day. This is play?

I suppose it's to be
expected. Their daddy
is off fighting. The papers
and magazines are full
of the war. Posters
everywhere: Somebody
, How to fight
fire bombs.
even told what to eat
to be strong enough...

If this war doesn't end
these little boys will grow
up to be killing machines.

Is there anyone who knows
where God has hidden
the off switch? We need it.

I need it.


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Poster courtesy National Archives. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Thursday, May 19, 2011




I picked up the trumpet
in grade school
for something to do.
It was my dad’s horn.

He had played in his
high school band.
He was rather good—
or so he said.

I liked tootling around
pretending I was
swinging with Benny
Goodman or Tommy Dorsey.

One day, at school,
a horn player was recruited
to play Taps as a tribute
to our fallen servicemen.

I had pretended for so long
that I believed I could play.
"I’ll do it!" I said,
before I stopped to think.

Now everyone would know.
I was a faker—a fraud.
How could I have been
so foolish?

I practiced all weekend
in the cellar where my squeaks
and squawks were muffled.
I drilled until my lip bled.

On Monday, bruised and swollen,
I took my place on the landing
between the two floors.
I lifted the trumpet.

I played slowly,
I played deliberately,
I played my best.
I played for my dad.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Musical notation courtesy Internet Archive.