It's interesting how we usually remember exactly what we were doing when some significant event happened! I'm sure many of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when JFK was shot.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the first radio reports of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor came in. It was a Sunday morning. I was 10 years old, and that morning I was helping my dad wash our 1938 Tudor Ford in the driveway of our home at 2316 Cecilia Avenue (near 16th and Taraval). He had the car radio on, and soon we stopped, transfixed by the unbelievable news we were hearing. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and there were many casualties. When I heard a report that up to 500 had been killed or injured in the Schofield Barracks, I found it difficult to comprehend.
From then on San Francisco, along with the rest of the country, was on a wartime footing. We collected string and tinfoil, we learned what margarine was, we learned how to use ration stamps and tokens ... blue and red ... for essential foods. We gave up many luxuries "for the duration." We learned to live with the rationing of gasoline. My dad was a traveling salesman for the motion picture industry, so he had a "B" sticker for his windshield instead of an "A" sticker. That entitled him to a few more gallons of gas each month.
We learned to seal our homes with blackout shades, so that no light would be visible from the outside. We wanted to offer no guidance to enemy bombers that might be flying toward our city! Each block had a Block Warden, whose first duty was to see that no light showed. And every home had firefighting equipment for the incendiary bombs that might one day come. I was a Civil Defense Messenger through the Boy Scouts. When all other communications had failed we would be able to ride our bikes through the bombing rubble to deliver important messages to civil authorities!
Air raid sirens were in every neighborhood, and their undulating wail was enough to put fear into all the children. They would anxiously wait for the "all clear." Mothers began to display little blue-star flags in their front doors or windows indicating a son or daughter in the service. A gold star revealed that service person would not be coming home.
Two and a half years later, on June 6, 1944, I walked from my home to Aptos Junior High. As I arrived in the schoolyard before classes started, all of the talk was about the long-awaited invasion of Normandy. D-Day had finally arrived, and we all were very excited about the news!
When WWII came to an end in 1945, my dad was managing several theatres in the Palo Alto area, and I remember being in the car with him in Menlo Park when the news of VJ Day came over the radio. Of course, it was the same radio and the same car ... the 1938 Ford that we had started the war with. New cars were not to be available again until sometime in 1946. By the time my dad bought a new car, the old '38 had been my "training wheels" and had accumulated over 100,000 miles.