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, 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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The State of Me



The president says
our spirit is strong.
I don’t believe him.

When Milt died
my spirit couldn’t wait
to get out the door.

My faith was stretched so thin
the blackness came through
to enshroud what was left

of my heart, leaving me
in this state of shock.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Poster courtesy UNT Digital Library.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mail Call



I love to talk, so teacher
thought I would be best-suited
for writing to the boys overseas
and telling them all the news
of our little town.

Many graduates
of Abraham Lincoln School
are now serving in
Europe, Africa, and the Pacific.

I can’t imagine how dull it must be
for a worldly-wise man in uniform
to receive a letter
from a twelve-year-old girl
who writes about
the wedding of Mr. Peacham
and the widow Mrs. Barnes,
or of the latest episode
of Daredevils of the West.

One week, the only thing
I had to write about
was the snowstorm and
getting my toes nearly
frostbit while sledding.
How boring for my readers.

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011




I don’t know why people complain,
it’s easy, nothing but arithmetic.
Everything has a point value.
When you buy your food,
you turn in your point stamps.
It’s easy. Even a kid can do it!

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

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What Makes an Enemy?



My Papa left Italy
to get away from "El Duce."
He left his home
because Mussolini
is a man not to be trusted.
Over here,
Papa is considered
a man not to be trusted.

Papa is Italian.
We are at war with Italy.
And, to some, that makes Papa
the enemy.

Papa works long, hard hours
to provide for his family.
With great pride he sends
his oldest son into the Marines.
In his broken English
Papa sings Praise the Lord
and Pass the Ammunition
loudly and with all his heart.

This is no enemy.
This is no saboteur.
This is my Papa—
an American!

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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Have You Heard?

Henry and Jane


Have you heard?
There’s a new mechanic
at the garage.


The mechanic’s
a woman!

Really? I wonder how
she keeps her nail polish
from chipping?

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Nail polish ad from author's personal collection.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Oleo Kid



Bobby was too young to be
part of the homefront army,
or so, he was told,

You can’t collect scrap,
you’ll get hurt.

You can’t put up the
blackout curtains,
you’re too short.

You can’t write to Uncle,
‘cause you can’t write!

You can’t knit...

You can’t...

Oleo now comes in bags
with a little red capsule.
Bobby’s in charge of the oleo.
He squeezes the bag
to break the capsule.
He squeezes some more.
The red mixes in with the white oleo.
Bobby’s always surprised
to find that the red isn’t
really red, it’s yellow!
He squeezes and squeezes
until the oleo is colored completely.
It almost looks like the butter
it’s supposed to replace. Almost.

In the homefront army, which
now recruits even five-year-olds,
"Oleo Kid" is considered
a respectable appointment.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Oleomargarine ad from author's personal collection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring 1943



I woke up to sounds of
hundreds of cedar waxwings.
They’re stopping over
on their way north.

Outside my window
two squirrels chattered
and chased each other
up, down, around the oak.

When I opened the door
the scent of wisteria
hit me before I could see
the vines in the garden.

It was then I remembered
that God made this world.
God, if you do all this,
surely you can end the war?

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011




It seems like
everyday I’m standing
in another line.
A line to get ration stamps.
A line to turn in fats.
A line to board the bus.
This line, though,
is like standing in front
of the pearly gates.
Once through the door,
I’ll hold out my pennies
and buy my own little
piece of heaven—
a packet of chewing gum!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Gum ad from author's personal collection.

This is the text from the ad:

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Tale of Hosiery



Most of us couldn’t afford
silk stockings even before
the war, so we don’t miss
them now that they’re scarce.

No patriotic American girl
needs to wear real hosiery
when there’s leg makeup
and you can paint your seams.

When it gets colder,
we’ll wear cotton socks
and rayon stockings—
ugly, but functional.

Besides, with shoes
being rationed, too,
a good pair of trousers
will hide both legs and feet.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy FDR Library. Sign reads: Uncle Sam needs your discarded silk and nylon stockings for gun powder bags. Please launder and leave here. Leg make-up ad from author's personal collection.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A General



I’ve been working real hard.
It’s nearly the end of the school year
and if I can earn a few more points,
I’ll get to be a one-star general!

Won’t Mom beam when she sees that!
She’ll say it was worth all those hours
helping me tie up bundles of papers
and crushing tin cans.

Grandpa will get tears in his eyes
when he sees my commission.
It was because he bought
so many savings stamps off me!

But I’ll be proudest of all!
Who cares if I got a D in 'rithmetic?
Or that teacher wrote on my report card,
"Eddie needs to pay attention."

No one will care
when I’m a general!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy FDR Library.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Going to California



Today’s the last day of school.
I’m not going back in the fall.
I’m going to California.

The war needs workers,
including women,
and I’m a willing one.

In California,
I’ll build ships or planes
and be handsomely paid.

In California,
movie theaters are open all night.
I’ll dance at the Hollywood Canteen.

Even better than movie stars
will be the gorgeous servicemen
lining up to meet me.

Yes, tomorrow,
I’m boarding a train,
and going to California.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Photo courtesy Library of Congress. Poster courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Up Late



I’m not supposed to
be up after nine o’clock,
but Mom seems to have
forgotten about the air grate
in the parlor ceiling.

Monday through Friday at nine,
Gabriel Heatter comes on
the Mutual Broadcasting System.
I lie on the floor
in the hallway to listen.

Last year, more often
than not there was bad
news, though Mr. Heatter
would never have said it.
Sleep didn't come easy.

The Allies are now advancing
on the European front.
When he says,
"There is good news tonight,"
I can relax...finally.

By the time Mr. Heatter
starts talking about Kreml
my head hits the floor.
"Get to bed, you rascal!"
And I can tell Mom's smiling.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. The photo is found on many sites on the internet, but I could find no attribution; if anyone knows the source of the image, please let me know. Hair tonic ad from author's personal collection.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

When the Lights Go On Again...



I sure hope they
don’t hurry turning
those lights on again.
I’m making pretty
good wages right now.
When this war is over
the white men will come home,
and all the youngsters,
and all the women,
and all the colored folk,
will once again be
without a job.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011




The American flag
drapes the coffin.
Another serviceman lost.
Another mother childless.
Another wife a widow.

The number of stars
on the flag can’t even come close
to the number of souls
who will never be born,
because this one American is gone.

I try not to think about it.

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

July 1943


JULY 1943

I can’t stop singing!

I feel so patriotic,
I could burst!

We were coming home
from a week at Grandma’s
when we stopped at
the newsstand at Union Station.
I didn’t know it
until I saw it,
but it seems every
magazine in the country
has an American flag
on the cover of its July issue.
It’s a red, white,
and blue bonanza!
Come on, join me—

"God bless America..."

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Magazine covers from author's personal collection.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Victory Garden



Everyone’s growing a victory garden.
Even those of us in the city.
We spend hours each week
hoeing, planting, and weeding.

The little ones plant radish
seeds and can hardly wait
until the greens are tall
enough to pull.

Fathers plant seeds
of tomatoes, beans, and corn.
Mothers tout the virtues
of garden fresh vegetables.

I’ll hoe and plant seeds.
I’ll pull every last weed.
I’ll pick vegetables from dawn to dusk.
But I still won’t eat peas and carrots!

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. Seed and garden photos courtesy Library of Congress.