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Military Traditions

December 3, 2020 By Fred Montonye

Two Recollections of World War II

I can remember the day Hitler invaded Poland. I was nine years old. My mother and some other friends and their mothers were staying at a beach cottage on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie. All of the husbands/fathers had been on a two-week fishing trip on a lake further north in Ontario. Many of these men had served in World War I, and I was always fascinated by the war stories they would tell. They all arrived at the beach cottage on the day Hitler invaded. They were talking about it being on the other side of the ocean and were speculating how long before America would be at war. I can remember standing on the beach at the water’s edge and thinking that the war was going on, on the other side of the water, and I was hoping that the Germans could not get to America. It didn’t dawn on me until sometime later, that I was standing on the shore of Lake Erie and on the other side of the water was New York State, not Europe.

My second remembrance was during the Battle of Britain and for a couple of years after. I was in grade school and one of the things that everyone was doing, boys and girls alike, was knitting six-inch by six-inch wool squares. Some teachers taught us to knit, and many times had to get us started or help on the last row so that the square would not unravel. These were then collected and sewn together to form blankets. These “Bundles for Britain” were shipped to England to be distributed to the British to help them keep warm. I was relating this story one evening at a dinner party in France where there were two other British couples as guests. They said they remembered receiving some of those blankets and thanked me profusely for helping them to stay warm during the war. One person said his mother still had one as a souvenir from the war. I asked about the color coordination of the squares as we knitted them in whatever yarn was available. They said some were quite well coordinated while others were very gaudy. But that did not matter as they still curled up in them to stay warm.

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