Oral History Interview with Mary G. Daubert

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Record 10/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation 2001 - 2001
Abstract Oral history interview with Mary G. Daubert by Debra G. Daubert (daughter) for the Oshkosh World War II project. She discusses her experiences in Oshkosh on the homefront. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.

This is June 6th 2001 and I'm [Debra Daubert] in Butte des Morts, Wisconsin with Mary G. Daubert. For the record tell me what your name was in the 1940's.
MD: Mary Grace Clark.

DD: What was your age? When were you born?

MD: Oh, 1932.

DD: Where was your address during the '40s? During the war years?

MD: It was Neenah, and Richland Center, and Menasha.

DD: Okay and we'll get back to that. What were your first recollections of the war? Do you remember anything as a child, hearing about war?

MD: I remember hearing about war, because I remember that after WWI, when FDR had the C.C.C. camps my father delivered milk to these camps, and I remember although my father was a strong, strong Republican he respected the way that FDR got through, after the war difficulties and got the country back in shape.

DD: After the depression?

MD: He had a lot of respect even though he was a Republican and I don't think he ever voted for him. So he did respect his decisions but he certainly hated to see the country going into another world war.

DD: So you heard talk of it prior to the war? Did they talk about Europe being in the war that you remember?

MD: Well the newspapers would and we heard it on the radio, I think the war was kind of kept from my sister and I, except for the few things we would hear on the radio and see in the papers. It wasn't deliberately talked about in front of us; I guess it being such a terrible, terrible situation
that some of the families in our country were having to go through because of the war.

DD: Do you remember Pearl Harbor happening?

MD: Yes I do.

DD: Can you tell me what happened that day?

MD: We had relatives visiting us, two of my mother's sister's families. They just huddled around the radio, just listening to every bit of news they could get, but we were sent off to play in our bedrooms.

DD: So you knew something was going on but not what was going on.

MD: I knew we'd been bombed and that a lot of our service men had died and I knew that we were gong to be more involved in the war, and even more fear that it might be happening to our country because it had happened to part of our country.

DD: Did you really know what war was?

MD: Well no, I don't think I really knew what war was, except that it was terrible and I had heard about air raids where you would have to go into a designated building.

DD: Did they talk about that at school? Were you hearing anything about war at school?

MD: I don't remember that. I don't remember that we heard about war at school.

DD: Now Grandma's brother Kenneth was involved in that war. Was it from the beginning?

MD: No, he enlisted after Pearl Harbor and he was older than the other draftees. He was my mother's older brother and he enlisted in a special section, I think it was the Sea Bee's, but I'm not sure. A very favorite of the family, my mother's youngest sister's husband, Uncle Larry didn't enlist; he was drafted at a young age.

DD: Did you ever worry about your dad going to war?

MD: Yes I did worry about my dad going to war but he kept saying he was too old.

DD: How old was he then, do you know?

MD: Um, lets see now, he was born in 1906.

DD: What did your family do during the war? Was there any way your life was different,
because of the war? Well you had gardens anyway, but were you into the Victory Gardens, or the rationing.?

MD: I definitely remember the rationing, stamp rationing, gas rationing and having to get meat with stamps. I remember the only car that we had was the company car and gas rationing was very strict on families being able to travel. Cars weren't even being made at that time, so you couldn't buy a car. I remember when we were living in Richland Center and I was going to a country school and we collected milkweed pods to make parachutes, the silk out of the milkweed pods.

DD: How did you go about doing that? Did you do it at home or did you bring it to school?

MD: We brought it to school it was a school thing, but we collected them around our homes and at that particular time we were living on my Grandparents farm, so….

DD: So then what happened, you just put it in a big bag and then it was sent some where?

MD: Yes, I kind of think that a truck came along to the schools and picked it up I don't know if they were sent from there or if they were trucked somewhere.

DD: Now explain a little bit how you moved around a lot because of different situations with work. You said you started out in Neenah, and I know we covered a little of this on the Depression Tape, but tell us again how you came to live in Neenah and where you moved around during those war years.

MD: Well my father worked in the laboratories of Carnation Milk CO. in Richland Center and became aware of a fieldman's job at Neenah Milk Products in Neenah. He applied for the position and was accepted and we lived in Neenah several years and then Neenah Milk Products sold out to a cooperative and my father had always said he was never going to work for a cooperative. At the same time, my grandmother became very ill and needed surgery and my grandfather needed help running the farm, so my mother and us two girls went down with the thinking that my father would come down and join us there. In the meantime, I think he started working for DeLaval and traveling in the three-state area. Then my Grandmother improved and Kraft Food Co. was trying to employ my father, because when he was working with Neenah Milk Products he had a campaign going against Kraft Foods because they sold oleo, but Kraft became very interested in hiring him. He thought he never, ever would work for them but they said "Name your salary." and he named a real high salary and they accepted him right on the spot. He was going to be working the northern part, over the Kraft fieldmen, he was their supervisor.

DD: Do you know about what year that was?

MD: I think I was in eighth grade, so you can figure it out. I do remember though when I was living in Richland Center that one of my cousins and my Grandfather was working at Merrimack in the Defense plants

DD: What did they do there, do you know? Or couldn't they talk about it?

MD: I don't know, but I know a lot of the people from that area did, they rode on a bus and the bus would leave at certain times from Merrimack and it was building some kind of machinery because they'd tease my cousin because she was a welder.

DD: Oh, it was a girl cousin.

MD: Yeah, this girl cousin was quite a bit older than I, her name was Gail Clark. As far as things we did for the war effort, I think my mother probably worked for the church, but rolled bandages and things like that.

DD: Do you remember doing that?

MD: I don't remember doing that.

DD: You remember her talking about that.

MD: I remember her going to meetings where they did things like that. I remember when all of a sudden we had nylon stockings, I remember the improvement in our leg wear.

DD: Was this after the war?

MD: Yeah.

DD: We ended up you were still in Richland Center so how did you get back up here?

MD: My grandmother greatly improved and was able to do the chores on the farm and the Kraft position came up about that time and so we moved back. When we moved back, we couldn't find a house, we had sold our house in Neenah and couldn't find a home so we ended up in an apartment in Menasha.

DD: So what were some of your activities when you lived in Menasha? I know you had a paper route.

MD: I did have a paper route.

DD: What was going on at school?

MD: I don't remember that we did.

DD: You talk about collecting milkweed pods, so what about scrap. Did you do any scrap drives? Scrap metal drives were really big at the museum, they had gathered stuff.

MD: I don't remember that, I remember through the school the Flint stamps and bonds. Everybody had a book and they bought Flint stamps on a certain day of the week.

DD: Were here any organizations that you belonged to? I know you were a little young for the Junior Red Cross.

MD: I don't think I was in any organizations other than Girl Scouts.

DD: Do you remember anything like a Victory Garden? Was there a yard at all to have any thing in?

MD: Well not at the apartment, no, but then later when we moved to Oshkosh.

DD: Was the war still on when you moved to Oshkosh?

MD: No the war was over. I remember our feeling was different, between how we felt about the Germans and how we felt about the Japanese.

DD: Can you explain that?

MD: We didn't hate, at least I didn't and my family didn't hate the Germans as a people. We hated Hitler, we hated Hitler and his party but that didn't mean that we hated all the Germans. When it came to the Japanese, we hated all the Japanese and everything about Japan. 'Course that could be because they invaded us, that might have been why we hated them. I remember we would call them Japs, and a lot of people to this day do. I can remember the terrible hate we had for the Japanese.

DD: Do you remember seeing a lot of posters around or anything, like "The walls have ears," or "Not talking about things." Were any of those around?

MD: There probably were, but they didn't catch my attention as much as the posters that said "Enlist Now!" or "Your Country Needs You!" and there were a lot of those posters around that impressed me more.

DD: Did you have any blackouts or curfews that you remember? Did you have to have your curtains covered or dark at a certain time?

MD: I don't remember that we did.

DD: Okay, I just know they sometimes did. I know you said there was resentment in the neighborhood of Menasha at least because your Grandpa had a car…

MD: My dad had a car. Yeah because most people didn't have cars and the cars that they would have had would have wore out. My father did have, but his car was a company car but we were able to use it some I remember like for visiting for Christmas time in Richland Center or something like that or very little traveling. The neighbors did resent us and called us names because that car of course was out-and-about when my dad would go to work and come back.

DD: Did they think you were unpatriotic because you had a car

MD: Or it was some Government thing.

DD: So, you talk about rationing, do you remember there being any shortages.

MD: Sure, there were shortages on everything.

DD: Well like what kind of things do you remember there being a problem having or getting?

MD: Our food, our milk and candy.

DD: Do you remember having to make do with something else in some way?

MD: I remember SPAM being a very popular meat. You could get SPAM and it must have taken less coupons to get SPAM.

DD: You made creative meals with SPAM?

MD: Yeah.

DD: That's amazing, you still like SPAM today. What about clothing, did the war seem to have a difference over how you dressed or Grandma dressed? I remember you had a pinafore and a sunbonnet that was made out of feedsack material. Was that during the war years?

MD: Yes, a lot of our clothes were made out of feedsacks.

DD: How did you get the feedsacks? Was it a material you got or did you actually buy the feedsacks?

MD: No, you'd go to the mills, the feed mills that's where you'd get them.

DD: Were they filled with flour?

MD: I don't think they were, some were. Some were filled with flour and you bought whatever commodity was in them. Things were being sold in sacks that could be reused as material and so you could just go to the mill and buy a certain number of sacks. It wasn't straightened out, you'd have to pull out the seams and iron it out and wash 'em.

DD: So it was just like a sack.

MD: It was just like a feed sack that somebody else had bought something in and recycled.

DD: When you lived around here do you remember any of Grandma's friends working for any war effort like factories?

MD: I don't remember.

DD: So there were two family members, Uncle Jerry and Uncle Kenneth and Uncle Kenneth died But Uncle Jerry I know had a really hard time. Can you talk of what ever memories you have of that?

MD: Well he (Jerry) became very ill while he was in the service.

DD: Well he was more where the Japanese were.

MD: They both were. My uncle was killed after the war was over…

DD: Uncle Kenneth.

MD: Uncle Kenneth

DD: It was the day after wasn't it?

MD: I think it was the day after. He was picking up land mines in an area where they were and one went off and killed him. Uncle Jerry was very ill in Japan and he used to talk about being on guard at night worrying and wondering what was out there and what could be crawling up at any minute to hit you over the head or something.

DD: The early memories I have of him, he must have had some horrible experiences because he was nervous and everything.

MD: He had malaria when he was over in Japan and was very, very, very, very ill. He wasn't able to have children when he came home. When we were married and living in Waussau, through the church's young adults group, there was a gentleman who had been a prisoner of war in Japan. One time we were in their home and he was given such vivid terrible memories of what the Japanese did to him and how he was tortured, that for years and I'd have nightmares about it.

DD: Do you know what his name was?

MD: Oh, I can't think right now.

DD: I was just curious I never heard that.

MD: Well it was someone you knew, he was very active in the church. While we were there his wife died which was kind of sudden because he was the one who had undergone all that torture and she had a heart attack and died.

DD: I can't think who that would be, but maybe Dan remembers. Did you write to Uncle Jerry or Uncle Kenneth at all or did you write to anybody? Did they have any campaigns at school or anything?

MD: Oh, sure they had campaigns at school to write to servicemen and we wrote to Uncle Jerry and Uncle Kenneth and I remember Uncle Kenneth once coming home from service and giving us each a Hershey candy bar.

DD: So that was kind of rare to get, huh?

MD: Yeah, yeah.

DD: Any other things they brought home, that you remember?

MD: From the war?

DD: Yeah.

MD: When Uncle Jerry came back he brought a Japanese doll, and he brought Japanese dishes.

DD: I know there was a doll somewhere around. Did he bring the doll to you?

MD: Well, um, I thought he brought it to me, but it could have been to Margie and me together.

DD: Nobody liked Japanese but all of a sudden people were bringing souvenirs home.

MD: From the war, yeah.

DD: Do you remember hearing that the war was over?

MD: Yes I do remember hearing the war was over. We were living in Menasha and I had a broken leg and it was the days before the walking cast so I was in the living room with my foot up and my parents were gone, they were out of town. All the neighborhood kids and my sister were going to go downtown to see what all the excitement was, everybody was excited and hollering. So she went down for the festivities and I had to sit home with my…

DD: But you heard that the war was over?

MD: Yes. We heard that on the radio.

DD: When you heard it on the radio did you get scared, thinking what it was? (Phone rings) {Pause}

DD: Okay, um, you had been talking about the war ending and your sister rushed downtown. Your parents had been out of town working and you were alone, do you remember any kind of special celebrations that went on?

MD: Oh there was special celebrations downtown. My sister didn't come back till real late 'cuz people were parading, and my parents called, and where ever they were, there was a lot of commotion going on too. They wanted to know how we were doing.

DD: How did you happen to be listening to the radio, did you turn the radio on or did you listen to the radio a lot? Do you remember if you turned it on because you were hearing a lot of noise and wondered what was going on?

MD: No we listened to the radio a lot.

DD: I know you played paper dolls a lot. Did you have war paper dolls or did you ever play war?

MD: I don't remember ever playing war, I remember though there were a lot of community gathering things, like community picnics, because no body had cars to go places and everybody had bicycles. There were a lot of community kinds of things.

DD: Was that to raise money or just to get together?

MD: Just to get together I think.

DD: Now, um, to do your paper route you had a Victory bike.

MD: Right.

DD: A brand new Victory bike?

MD: Right. It had real skinny tires and, uh, I was very proud of it.

DD: Do you know where you got that bike? Do you know where it was bought?

MD: At a hardware store, and I want to say Coast to Coast, it was one of the old time, popular hardware stores.

DD: So, I know you read a lot of books when you were a kid, was it hard to get books? I know you also went to the library a lot during that time. I guess what I'm pumping you for is, I know you have some books still that say they were from war years and they were made out of special paper and that. Did you purposely go out of your way to look for certain books that kind of supported the war effort or were you just an avid reader?

MD: I probably would read any thing I could get my hands on or a dime would pay for.

DD: How bout any other activities you would have had at that time. Lets go back to Christmas when you lived in Richland Center. Did you seem to notice the gifts at Christmas being different during the war years?

MD: Well, I just remember that we bought gifts for other relatives by opening up a catalog, probably Sears of Montgomery Wards, and picking them out of there.

DD: So, you did more mail order than you did actual shopping?

MD: Right.

DD: What did Grandma do during the War years, did she work?

MD: No. My mother did not work. She did not work after we left Richland Center.

DD: The war had ended and you moved to Oshkosh, do you know when you moved to Oshkosh?

MD: Oh, um,

DD: Well, I know one of the biggest things, even after the war was the shortage of housing.

MD: Yes, definitely, the Quonset houses being built in Oshkosh. I was in eighth grade at that time.

DD: So basically you tried to look for any house you could find?

MD: Right, we did. We probably would have moved back to Neenah, my parents definitely were looking for a home to get out of the apartment, and uh, my dad was all excited when he found this home in Oshkosh.

DD: It was on Ohio Street.

MD: It was on Ohio Street near the airport.

DD: The upstairs wasn't even finished. So was it a new house?

MD: No it was an older home, it was in good enough condition, but the basement was just stones. It had a basement but it wasn't a cement block basement. My parents finished off the upstairs, cuz otherwise; there was one bedroom, which my dad really wanted as an office room or a den room. My sister and I slept on the sofa but we were used to that because when we lived in that apartment in Menasha we could only find a one-bedroom apartment and my sister and I slept on the sofa during the war years.

DD: How about during the war years in that apartment for cooking, was there ever a problem having electricity, having gas, having any of your utilities that you remember?

MD: No, I can't remember that there was but we of course didn't have a TV or we didn't have washers and dryers. My mother did have a washing machine down in the basement of that house but there weren't dryers, there was very little gas. The appliances weren't like we have today.

DD: I know during the depression years you went to movies. Do you remember going to the movies during the war years? Anything like Betty Grable or musicals that supported the war?

MD: Well, I suppose. I remember the themes of the movies were serious. There weren't gay exciting musicals.

DD: What programs did you listen to on the radio if you listened avidly to the radio? Any of those, that you remember?

MD: Well we would avidly be listening to the news especially after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

DD: Did you have any idea about where the places they were talking about were? Did you ever get curious and look up where those places were?

MD: Yeah, I think we had a globe at home even. Globes were really popular, I think most people had a globe.

DD: Do you remember it being patriotic? Do you remember people doing anything more special to show their patriotism?

MD: Um, well flags were important, Uncle Sam was important, a very big figure, Uncle Sam.

DD: Do you remember back in school having anything like weekly readers that talked about the war?

MD: Yes the weekly readers would talk about the war, we did have weekly readers.

DD: How bout magazines did you read them?

MD: Well magazines like Newsweek and Time would have pictures of the war going on.

DD: Did you have those coming into your home?

MD: Well I know we had the Saturday Evening Post coming into our home. I don't know if that was made that long ago or not. We had Country Gentleman and we had a lot of magazines coming into our home that are no longer in print today.

DD: What kind of games did you play in those days if you didn't have TV, what did you do just for fun?

MD: Well, we played games and we played them older than kids do today, we were older. Tic-Tac-Toe and Checkers, and we listened a lot to records on a phonograph and I had a phonograph that you wound up and portable ones that we could take along to picnics and things. We, um, um, drew with chalk and played marbles. I remember a favorite game of our family was a Karem Board, but that was just because there wasn't television and times were different then you played more family games I'm not sure that had anything to do with the war.

On the 6th of June 2001 with Mary G. Daubert, talking some more on other WWII memories.

DD: So lets continue on some other thoughts you have had.

MD: Well I remember that our dresses, the ladies dresses were short, and very streamlined, there wasn't a lot of material that was put into clothes men's or ladies' you know, the material was in short supply. And we played games outside, neighborhood games like Red light-Green light, Kick the Can and uh, and things like that.

DD: That's kind of cool, I remember playing games like that when I was a kid too. I bet you did a lot outside for playing with neighborhood kids.

MD: Neighborhood kids and uh, seemed to be like neighborhood things like picnics and things would be our entertainment. I was thinking about how horrible we felt when the atomic bomb was dropped and we really felt that we couldn't believe our country could be so cruel, and then there was the saying everywhere, "we'll remember Pearl Harbor", and we were thinking that less of our service people would be getting killed or they might be invading our shores, if we hadn't dropped the atomic bomb.

DD: Do you remember where you were when you heard that that had happened?

MD: I do, I was in the living room at home and we had company. Oh no, you mean the bomb was dropped, no I'm sorry, I was thinking about Pearl Harbor. I don't remember where I was when I heard that the bomb had dropped.

DD: Did it strike you exactly what that meant? Had you seen pictures of it at all? Like the mushroom cloud or anything?

MD: Well the days following, like a day or two, but you see we didn't have television. So you didn't get the media report till you would see it in the newspaper. You'd heard it on the radio, but of course we couldn't picture it. We could hear about the devastation and that civilians were killed too, and buildings demolished over a wide area and it just seemed such a terrible thing to do. Then, like I said, when we started thinking other thoughts about what they had done to Pearl Harbor and what they could've done to our country if we hadn't stopped this, we began to feel that it was okay.

DD: Now I know, I'm going to bring up something and this is going to be on the release form that you didn't mind having it in the record, but that you wished that it would not be used in public release, because it might hurt family members, since now we do have family members in Japan, you were at least willing to record it for future generations to know about, at least while certain people were alive. Attitudes towards Russians and Germans, are you still willing to talk about the family's attitudes toward this?

MD: Well like I have been thinking, when I started to compare how I felt and how my family and the majority of the people felt differently towards Japan than they did towards Germany, and even in later years, when my niece, which would be my mother's granddaughter was to marry a Japanese physician, my mother made the remark to me that she didn't see how one of her family could marry a Jap, that had killed her brother. But on the other hand, both of her daughters had married Germans and she had never once made any remarks against the Germans.

DD: I wonder if some of that could be because there was already such a strong German community here that wasn't really involved in the war and if they were it was more fighting against the war and we really didn't know any Japanese people.

MD: And the Japanese had bombed us, the Germans had never bombed us, but I just think the whole country never was against Germany they were against Hitler and his dictatorship, but I think the whole country was against Japan.

DD: Do you remember. . . What else did you have?

MD: I just was thinking since on the other tape I remembered a Christmas when I was in Kindergarten but I also remember the Christmas right after Pearl Harbor. For that Christmas I remember we had to look all over, my sister wanted a doll and there just wasn't things like plastid dolls, and rubber. Rubber was in such scarce supply, and we finally found this doll. My parents took me with them to find this doll in Little Chute, Little Chute or Kimberly, so but, I got a watch. I got my first watch that Christmas and it had a little black braid band.

DD: So it almost sounds as if your Christmases during the Depression were more elaborate
than those in the war.

MD: I remember during the war that everything was so scarce, because all the material, any kind of material was going into weapons or fabric for soldiers.

DD: Now they developed a lot of new plastics and nylons and manmade fibers during the war, do you remember there being a push on that or any difference.

MD: Oh I remember being thrilled with the nylon stockings that came out, of course you couldn't get those either, but you could dream about someday owning a pair and you would stand in line to get them. You would stand in line to buy cigarettes.

DD: Huh, you stood in line to get cigarettes?

MD: No( laughing) No.

DD: I didn't think so!

MD: But you could see lines of people.

DD: What other things did they stand in line for? I mean do you remember standing in line for anything?

MD: Um, no, I don't remember that I did. I did stand in line to see Gone with the Wind.

DD: Yeah, but that would have been '39 or something. Do you remember dad talking about the war? Might have been interesting since he was a German.

MD: I don't,

DD: No huh, well that's alright I just thought, you know, obviously in the depression their were more things to compare, I think that any Germans in Oshkosh had to register at Winnebago county.

MD: I think you're right.

DD: Do you remember, I know in your own family you had Uncle Kenneth die, but do you remember any friends that had anybody die? Was there anything about Pearl Harbor, where anyone died, that you knew?

MD: I didn't know anyone in Pearl Harbor, and I didn't know anyone personally, but you would walk the streets and they would have stars in the window meaning they had someone in service or that someone had died in service. I remember a lot of the windows would have stars.

DD: Talking about visible signs, do you remember any other visible things?

MD: Well like I said there was a lot of Uncle Sam and the Flag. I think a great feeling of supporting the country, a great patriotic feeling at that time.

DD: So, how was your favorite way to have SPAM? (laughing)

MD: To bake in the oven to scour the top of it and to mix a little brown sugar with a little vinegar, and put that on top and bake it for about a half an hour.

DD: So like ham,(laughing) I think we've had that nowadays, every once in a while!

MD: . . . and with some cloves stuck in it.

DD: Yeah. Were spices and that available? Do you remember having those, like cloves, was that easy to get?

MD: I can't remember cloves were hard to get. But everything, really was kind of hard to get.

DD: When you were moving during those times you didn't hire someone, or did you?

MD: No, I think usually someone in the family would have a truck and, I don't know, we must have stored our furniture. I don't know where our furniture was when we moved to Richland Center. I can't remember that when we moved to my grandparent's farm.

DD: Was the apartment furnished?

MD: No, but we lived at Grandma and Grandpa's farm for about a year and I don't know where our furniture was because it wasn't there.

DD: Did you have Christmas trees?

MD: Yes.

DD: You were able to get those. Do you remember what you decorated the tree with? Did you have your own ornaments or did you have to make ornaments?

MD: Well we did make ornaments, but we had ornaments from… well, we've had Christmas trees from as long as I can remember and we'd have ornaments. I have an ornament that was on one of my very first Christmas trees.

DD: There are so many other every day things that I'm trying to pump your memory on.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.3.18
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Daubert, Mary G.
Subjects World War II
Title Oral History Interview with Mary G. Daubert
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