Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor


Interview conducted as part of research for the writing of World War II in Mid-America

Charlotte (Mehlbrech) Hagen  © Copyright 2005

Interview by Robert C. Daniels

Charlotte (Mehlbrech) Hagen was interviewed at the Union-Congregational Church in Waupun on 28 November 2005 starting at 12:30 P.M.  The interview lasted 46.35 minutes.  At the time Charlotte was seventy-two years old, very articulate, and came prepared with notes.  Like all of the other interviews, she brought new insight of both the war and the lives of those who lived through it, bringing to the table her memories of being a young school aged girl and what it was like at that age growing up in a time of war.


What is your full name?  Charlotte Ruth Hagen.

Is that your maiden name?  No.  My maiden name is Mehlbrech.  M E H L B R E C H.

I know a lot of people that were born in the early twentieth century were not born in hospitals, my mother wasn’t, but at home.  Where were you born?  I was born at my grandma’s house on Arlington Avenue in Marshfield, Wisconsin.  I was the first born of her seven children.

And what was the day that you were born?  September 21, 1933.

Who were your parents?  Elwin, E L W I N, and Ruth Mehlbrech.  M E H L B R E C H, it’s German (she laughs).

Do you speak German?  No.  I wish I…, well a few, like everyone, a few things.  We all say “yah.”  But my great grandmother was born in Germany and she…, they were all fluent, of course, all their life.

Your mother and father were German, or also spoke German?  They were full-blooded German.  My dad also, and his mother’s name was Fox, and that’s German.  And they also were all from Germany.  So I am actually a full-blooded German.

Did your mother and father speak German?  No.  They, ah…, you could get the gist of some things.  They couldn’t read it, you know.  But they…, and the great grandparents and my grandmother, they always talked German when they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about.

My grandmother used to do that, too.  She used to call me her little Scheister.  I never knew what that meant until....  Schnarf, too (as she laughed).

My mother always gave her a dirty look when she said that.  It wasn’t very good.

No, I know what it means now.  Do you have any brothers and sisters?  I have…, yes.  I have…, well…, there was seven children, and I had one sister and all the rest are boys.  They’re all living except for one.

What are their names?  Oh, let me start with myself, Charlotte, and then there was Wayne; he’s the one that’s deceased.  And Gerald, G E R A L D, and then there’s Donald, and Ruth Ann, and then the twins; and it was Dale and Dave.  It’s not David.  It’s Dave.

Where did you go to school?  I went to school in Wisconsin Rapids (Wisconsin), Wood County, and I went to eight grade.  All classes, all in one schoolhouse, all grades in one room.  There was eight grades in one room.  There could be up to fifty children in there at a time with one teacher.

Wow.  And did you graduate from high school?  Yes.

At the same place, Wisconsin Rapids?  Yes, but it was at…, it wasn’t the country then, of course, it was Lincoln High School.

Did you attend college?  No.  I graduated high school in 1951.

What was it like growing up for you?  Well, we were…, had a nice childhood.  We had a very nice mother.  My dad worked hard.  I know when he was first married he was a sharecrop[per] on a turnip farm, and that was in Pittsville, Wisconsin.  Then when they moved to town, Wisconsin Rapids, he worked for NEPCO Nursery at [the] nursery.  And then he got in Edwards Paper Company.  And we had a small, little farm.  We had our own milk and our own meat; we made our own butter, we had chickens, like that.  And he was also a musician.  And this was good. 

He had come from…, his family had a band when he was a boy and then he carried on with that, and he had that.  And then during the war it was a luckier thing for him.  Musicians could get a little more gas stamps—and so could firemen—because they felt that there should be this entertainment.  But people…, that’s when women started to dance with women because there weren’t any men around.  And then they’d have the dances and people would…, whole families would come and then they would have a dance.

During the 1939, 1941 timeframe, just before the war, what were you doing then?  Well, I was very small ‘cause I was born in ‘33, and I had a nice childhood.  We didn’t think that…, we didn’t know that we didn’t have things.  We would have oatmeal for supper sometimes.  Although on a farm you were lucky enough to have a lot of things ‘cause you grew your own, made your own butter and so on, had your own cream. 

And I went to school.  I started when I was five years old.  Because I was so young they had me…, that I had to learn the alphabet and how to write my name, or print my name.  And I thought my mother gave me a long name, and I used to cry about that, she said.  And the name never did fit in the blanks (she laughs).

Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard about Pearl Harbor?  Yes!  I was with a…, I was over to the neighbor girl’s.  And I couldn’t have been more than, oh, I don’t know if I was even ten.  She had a playhouse, and she was the only child and she had things that I didn’t have, and we played over there.  And she had a sticker, and it said, “Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941.”  And I had…, we had heard on the radio, previously—we listened to Gable Hater at 6 o’clock every night while we were eating supper.  And when the…, this had happened…, but I first really become aware of it when I came home and told my parents about the sticker, and they said, “Well, remember?  Don’t you remember?  They were bombed over there.”  And that’s when I first remember….

And I was lucky enough to see it approximately eleven or twelve years later, to see the actual spot.  And like I told about bullet holes in Schofield Barracks where they had went right across the building, and they left them there for everyone to see.  And the monument, of course, is there for everyone to see.

So you traveled to Pearl Harbor?  Yes, I was over there.  I was…, when I was first married, I wasn’t even married there.  And my uncle that had been in the war, Stanley Summers, he was stationed there also, and was over there for two to two and a half years, something like that.

What were your thoughts and feelings about the United States being attacked?  Well, when we first heard that, my father had said, “If it can happen there, it can happen here.”  And so all I can remember is being scared, you know.  And when you hear…, see an airplane we would get scared.  And then as the time went on we had blackouts that you would have to have your windows covered with black.  And black was all sold out so you’d have to have…, take green or blue, dark blue—you couldn’t even buy that—and you covered your windows, and they would have practices of this.  And they would have a warden, he was the only one that was allowed on the road.  And he would go up and down the road, and then if he thought he could see too much light or anything out of your windows, he would come up to your house.

Was it different colored, dark colored cloth?  Yes.  You had to cover your windows.  Some people, they….  I was talking to a lady when I told her about this interview, and she says, “Well, we couldn’t even get any colored dark, so we tried newspapers and would tape it over the windows.” 

And we left our lights on, but we thought if somebody accidentally turned one on or if you would forget or you had a timeframe when you had to do this…..  And this was with the idea that if we were actually to be under attack every…, all the lights would be out.  There wouldn’t be any lights anywhere. 

And for the practice time just the warden could have his light with his car when he went all around to check.  And this was in the country.

So did this happen often?  No.  I can only remember one time of doing that.  It could’ve been more times, but I remember this one specific time, ‘cause you’re kind of scared.

This was actually in the country too?  This wasn’t town?  Yes.  No, we were in the country, we were two miles from town.  See, we had paper mills there whereas in Waupun they had the rivet company, and so forth.  But they made paper, and that was important, too, because we saved our paper in school.  We used both sides, and you didn’t…, they threw it in a basket, but you weren’t to crumble it up.  You were to save it like we save paper now for recycling.  We had to save our paper. 

What were the general feelings of those around you about the Pearl Harbor attack and the fact that the United States was now in a war?  Well, there was shock, of course, ‘cause they had been at war, ‘cause we still…, we had grandfathers and people who were in the First World War, and uncles or great uncle to me.  But they were concerned because everybody got…, the dads got into classifications.  You got it in the mail, and you had a classification.  If you were 1-A you were gonna get called.  It didn’t matter at that time there was five of us because there were people that went with five children and went to war.  And these people didn’t have lights in their house, they didn’t have a car, they didn’t have things, and they had to go to war.  And their wife just had to do what she could do by herself.  We had a neighbor that had five children and had to go.

Do you know what the other categories were, do you remember what they were?  No.  I just knew that 1-A was bad, ‘cause you could get called.  Four-F was…, when if you saw young men walking around you had every reason to believe they were 4-F because there weren’t just a lot of these young people around.

That would be unfit?  Unfit was…, unable to serve.  And it could be flat feet or it could be some other health reason.  And there was…, that’s why when I said when people went to dances, they didn’t…, they went with another girl because there weren’t any…, a lot of young men weren’t there. 

It went up to…, it seemed to go…, like it went into the fathers with five children, you know.  You just didn’t see a lot of young men around.  And I remember this one fellow was a shoe repairman, and he was much needed because you couldn’t get shoes without a stamp.  And he had a lot of work, and you had to wait and wait for your repair.  And he’d say, “Well, there’s a war on, you know,” he’d say.  And he knew that…, someone asked him one time, “Why aren’t you at war?”  See, you had to be ashamed if you weren’t in the service and you were walking around.  And he said, “Well, I’m 4-F.”

What did you do during the war?  Well, I was just going to school and that.  But we did have…, I belonged to 4-H and we had a…, trying to think what we called it…, we had a…, we collected things—metal—and we had a little thing for that.  We got…, people brought old pots and pans, and they’d be pretty old because people hung onto things.  And…, I’m trying to think what we called this.  But we just had everybody brought all this metal and rubber and old tires…, but there wasn’t too much of that because people didn’t give up hardly anything like that.  And then you took it down and then that was for the war effort.

Did you get paid for that or was this a donation?  No, this is all donations.

Can you tell us about the rationing, the ration cards and how they were used.  Yes, that was…, everyone in the family got one and you were…, every child, every person….  But it was for shoes, for gas, and anything like…, I often thought it must have been butter, also.  And I know it was sugar because I went to a church camp and I had to have five pounds of sugar.  And my mother was very upset because I had to have money, of course, for the camp.  And it was camp Winmore is the name of it.  And I had to take that five pounds of sugar. 

And ladies had to can without sugar, they would can without sugar because they thought they could maybe have enough stamps for to buy and put the sugar in later when we took it from the sealer, you know.  But it was very hard on the people. 

You couldn’t even have band-aids at school.  They were rationed out.  I mean, if you got hurt and had to be…, scraped bad enough or you wouldn’t get the band-aid, because there’s only one box for the whole school.

Now, the ration cards, could you trade those?  Well, I often…, I’m sure we did because we used to talk about….  We have to take them for the younger ones, they’d outgrow their shoes.  And they even would go down and…, parents would even try to repair their own shoes.  They’d cut off an end of the shoes of the little children at home so the toes could be out.  You see, you outgrew your shoes and you didn’t have a stamp, maybe. 

But we…, I know we traded the stamps.  I don’t know, through the family.  But I don’t know if that was legal or what, or nobody ever seemed to question it. 

But it wasn’t good enough to have the money.  You could not buy it if you did not have the stamp.  You had to have it. 

What changed in the town that you grew up in during the war?  What changed in the area that you grew up in?  Well, you didn’t go as much because you had a…, gas was rationed and you had to have a car that was running. 

I know my dad one time had to have his car fixed, and he needed it to work ‘cause that was, oh, fifteen miles away, something like that.  And he had to go and walk down and get on the bus.  And I know he also worked for the WPA one time when he didn’t have a job. 

See, some plants had a hard time.  Like, he worked at a stove factory first.  It’s Preway and now it’s called…, now it was Coleman has those.  But they couldn’t get the parts anymore for the factory to make these stoves, so they had to quit work.  And then he would have to go walk to town because his car couldn’t get the part repaired. 

And there was a big wait, anyway, because everybody was having everything repaired because of the war.  Everything…, “There’s a war on, you know,” they always…, people would say. 

And he helped build a library, I think in Marshfield.  And there was…, even in Waupun they had that little bridge going over and in the Fond du Lac County Park.  That’s a WPA project.  And there’s many others, too, I’m sure.

What does WPA stand for?  Remember?  Oh, it’s Administration, and maybe Wisconsin…, what was the P for?  I don’t know.  I don’t remember.

Okay.  Maybe Public Administration.  I don’t know.  But it was also made to give work to these people that were out because of the war.[1]

Do you remember what stayed the same during the war?  Well, I would mention first that I think everybody got closer together during the war.  You appreciated what you had more.  Families got together more.  There wasn’t much other entertainment.

You didn’t go on trips.  Of course, big families didn’t anyway.  But things did stay the same, a lot of it.  We had school, we had church, we had…, um, that part was the same.  Food was a little bit different because you mostly went to…, people that didn’t have their own cow like we did, they went to olee margarine in the bag with a little berry in it because you couldn’t get butter.  And you’d squeeze this little bag and you’d have to punch that little berry ‘cause it colored it—otherwise it was white—to look like butter.  That was the olee margarine.  Now [when] it all comes out [it] looks like butter, you know, the way it’s made.  But that was [the] differences then. 

As far as things the same, I would think we tried to make things the same.  We tried to have our family units, you know, close.  I think we made an effort to stay the same, even though everyone would say for anything that came up, “There’s a war on.”  That was what they said.

I’ve heard a lot of topics about Victory Gardens.  I was just…, I was…, I made a few notes.  Everybody was expected to have a garden.  Of course, we did anyway.  We grew everything that we could, and my mother would can it.  We had giant gardens.  My dad spaded them by hand, and even though he worked, he’d come home and he’d spade his rows.  And we’d have big areas of potatoes, and we’d all…, when we’d dig them we’d have a lot of fun.  We had fun, too.  We would see who would get their sack full first.  And don’t drag it through the sand, ‘cause we had sandy soil up at Wisconsin Rapids. 

You were expected to have a victory garden.  It was very unusual if you didn’t have some kind of a garden.

So even people in towns were expected to have them?  Oh, sure.  And we even put up signs, “Victory Garden.”  We even put up a sign of…, you know.  You see, people’d say, “Put up a sign.”  They always had a garden anyway, a lot of them in the country where we lived, but even town people would have gardens.  But they made a point of letting everyone know they had a Victory Garden. 

One thing I’d like to bring up that it bothers me much now.  We didn’t..., if you didn’t talk much about…, against the President or anything that was going on in the war effort.  I actually think that if you were…, you would get in trouble.  In fact, there was always rumors about somebody that hated the President, and then they would get in trouble with the FBI.  And I don’t know if this actually happened, but you would never hear a commentator talk like they do now about the President or any of the Congress, any of that.  It just wasn’t done ‘cause you were aiding and abetting the enemy!  That’s what they said.

My next question is what was it like for you during the war, but you’ve answered a lot of that.  Well, I would talk about the letters, too.  You wrote your letters…, that was just like tissue paper ‘cause they were airmail.  And it was just like this tissue paper that you…, something like it that you wrap up Christmas presents with it.  It was very thin, and you had to be very careful so you could write [on] that.  And your letters from your service men that you got, they were only written on one side and there were holes cut all over in ‘em.  And it would be because they had mentioned something about that might tell where they were, and something about if it was warm or cold.  Anything that would relate to that.  And I saw two letters myself from a…, one from a neighbor and one from a relative that the holes were cut, and it was…, we’d hold them up and look through all the holes, and we thought it was kind of funny, us kids did. 

You wouldn’t dare…, you weren’t supposed to gossip.  If you were sure or had any idea where your loved one was you didn’t tell.  And when you went to the movie they would show in there “Don’t Gossip.”  And then they would show pictures of this woman.  Her son had told her where he was somehow and she told a neighbor and they told a neighbor.  And then they went all the way and they showed the pictures on the screen in the movie house.  And then they would get to be looking more Asian and whatever.  And finally at the end, the ship got blew up.  And that was to let you know that you didn’t need to aid and abet the enemy.  You were not to help the enemy. 

Another thing I knew when I was a child, my grandparents were from Germany.  They were not from Ellis (Island), they came on the other one.  But they had come over, and some of them were born in Germany. 

And they had some things from Germany.  And they had beautiful pillows with the swastika on.  And that, I was told, meant good luck.  And she had them on this couch—and I was there when they decided to do it—they had those beautiful pillows and they were afraid someone would come and see them.  And my great grandma, she talked real broken, and she says, “Well, we could just turn them around.”  But, “No, somebody might turn it around.”  So while I was there—and I would visit in the summer, I would visit, or maybe around Easter, and my visits first started when my brother was born.  And he was born in the hospital because he was [a] ten-month baby, he just didn’t come.  And so she had to have the doctor.  So, of course, she went by mother and her mother took her to the hospital, and I happened to be there.  So they decided they were going to burn these pillows, and they burnt them in the furnace.  And they had other things also with this emblem.  It was…, I was told it was a good luck emblem.  But then Germany took it for their flag.  That was something I remembered.

They didn’t seem to keep things from children.  I think we keep things from children nowadays and people didn’t seem to do that.  My mother always used to say, “You’re living history.  This is history.”  And maybe it’s important to me now because I remember some of these things because she said, “Remember this now.  This is history.” 

I remember the victory parade downtown.  My mother got us out of there because everyone got real wild.  It all came down right in the streets, and the mayor was gonna speak, and it was just wall-to-wall people in the street, and she says, “We have to go home,” ‘cause she don’t want someone to get hurt.  But the church bells rang.  And on the radio that’s all you heard that “The war was over, the war was over!”  And then we all thought of my uncle, who was a prisoner of war in Japan for almost four years.  And then we thought we would find out now what happened to Stanley.

And he came home?  He came home, and he was the one I was telling you, became a national commander of the POWs and the MIAs (Missing in Action).  And he was on the Bataan Death March.  He worked in mines.  He had had been beaten and they told of all the different terrible things that were done to him, to the prisoners.  They didn’t speak much, though.  You had…, if you tried to find out things…, they weren’t forthcoming like you would hear over a period of time.  He used to stare.  Just stare at the wall.  And the first Thanksgiving that he came home, I remember that dinner, that’s one thing I had written down. 

We all sat around the table and he came there and he was real thin.  He had had malaria, and he just burst into tears.  And when he came home he got back pay and went down and bought himself a convertible, which was the worst mistake.  And that day that he came to see my mother he came to school and took all of us children and gave us a ride home.  He took us right out of school.  Nowadays you would never be able to do that because they didn’t know him; we barely knew him—we remembered him slightly.  He took all of us in this convertible home.  But he found out that the convertible he had was very cold in the winter (she laughs).  But he told, too, that when he walked in to buy the car he had cash, which was a foolish thing.  But they wouldn’t pay any attention to him until they saw he actually had money.  But he had back pay for all those four years. 

He did tell stories that when they got on the ship to go home they could have anything to eat that they wanted.  They would try to fill it one way or another.  And he wanted peaches.  And he ate a whole can, I suppose it was, of peaches.  Of course, they got sick.  But any…, that’s how nice they were to him. 

Of course, they were in terrible condition.  They hadn’t had anything.  Just a little rice.  And they had terrible things.  Sometimes they didn’t get anything.  But every man, if he wanted something that was in their power to give it to ‘em on the ship they would.  His was peaches. 

I did want to tell about the nylons though.

Yes, please.  When you couldn’t get a pair of nylons—and my mother, like everyone else, needed a pair of nylons—and we went to Penneys’ store and you stood in the line.  And each person got one pair to buy.  And my mother could see what was going on, so—I was also maybe ten years old—and she said, “Here, you’re going to buy a pair of nylons.”  And people were grumbling.  They said, “She don’t wear nylons.”  And my mother said, “Well, she does when she dresses up.”  And my mother did not lie.  She hated liars worse than anything.  But that was really a fib because I did not wear nylons.  And so she was able to buy two pair that day (she laughs).

What was it like when you heard that the war was over?  Oh, everybody was just like I told…, we went down….  See, my mother was a history buff, we have to go down.  My dad was always working shift work.  We had to get in the car and we had to go down to the victory parade.  And then we left because it got unruly.  But everyone…, people were blowing their horns all the way when you were going around.  The church bells were ringing.  Everybody was so happy.  Everybody was crying.  Everybody was dancing around.  “The war was over!  The war was over!” 

And we didn’t even know what it was going to mean that the war was over.  We’d been so long with it.  It seemed my lifetime was all about wars because I was born in ‘33 and it was soon there.  But everyone was just elated.  And then everybody first wanted to know about their loved one that was in the service.  When were they gonna hear?  When were they gonna get out?  And like Stanley, my uncle Stanley, his first…, my grandma did not even know.  The letter didn’t come quick enough.  He called on the phone. 

And in those days we had…, you had to place a long distance call had to come…, your phone would ring, and she’d say, “Central,” they called her.  And she would say, “You have a call from” such and such and it was long distance.  And then Stanley, my uncle that called, he says, “Hi, ma.”  And, you know, she was just hysterical and my grandpa had to talk.  And she told about this.  And then he married this girl that had been Central that had called up.  That is what they called her.  And if you’re going to place a long distance call also, you had to call central.  And then you gave your number and then they connected you and they would connect the other side. 

But Stanley came home—my grandparents didn’t travel—and when he came home—they told this story—because they didn’t know when he was coming, so he had to bust in the house.  And he could always get on the porch.  And then there was one window that never would…, didn’t lock or they couldn’t lock it, but that went into the living room.  So they heard some noise.  And then my grandma came down…, there was her Stanley.  And he had been eighteen when he went in the service, and when she saw him he was four years older and had been through all of that.

Did the area change when the military people came home?  Well, not right away.  It didn’t seem like to be a, you know, that it change that fast.  But one of the worries was for some of the people, some of the people did a little bit better during that time.  You know, the Depression had been in there too.  They did a little better because they had worked longer hours.  I think the pay got a little bit better.  Some of them were gonna lose some of their jobs because the men that were in the service, they were expected to come back to their job.  And some of ‘em worried a little bit about that.  That was one of the things.  But people, most generally, they had just a big relief. 

And yet, I don’t know what we expected, you know.  Nobody could say, “Well there’s a war on now.”  But they couldn’t blame everything onto that.  But I can’t see that I noticed a change.  

Although when I went to Hawaii I was just eighteen.  And I had gone all the way through school with someone who was in the Navy, and he wanted…, we wanted to get married.  And I hadn’t seen him for two years.  And my uncle was stationed there; the same uncle that had been a prisoner of war in Japan.  And I was married there.

And then is when I first really got to thinking, “This is just eleven years later, and I’m here.”  And my dad even thought, “Now should she…?”  Well, my Mother said, “The war’s been over for over ten years.”  But he worried about me going there ‘cause that had been bombed, you know. 

But then, of course, I did get to see the memorial, and I got to see Punchbowl Cemetery, also.  And that one newsman, Ernie Pyle, he was buried there.  I got to see that.  And when I saw the Punchbowl Cemetery it had all the wooden crosses.  And now it’s not like that I hear, because it’s easier to keep it nice with the crosses down.  But at that time they had wooden crosses.  And the people from Hawaii, such wonderful people that they were and probably still are, they would see that they would put a lei, that’s a circle of flowers, and they would put that on all those graves as far as you could see.  And it was in an extinct volcano, so it looked…, that’s why they called it punchbowl, because it looks like a big round bowl.  And there’s a monument there, too, in Hawaii. 

And I saw where the Japanese first were sighted.  They had a big cross up there.  And I don’t know how it is nowadays.  You can’t have public land; they don’t like to have things up like that.  But it’s like big a mountain…, little ranges.  Beautiful country, Hawaii is.  I saw where the planes were first sighted in Hawaii. 

Were the military members different when they came home from the war?  Oh, yes, and that’s what my uncle tried to help with when he became National Commander of the POWs and the MIAs, and that’s Prisoners Of War and Missing In Action.  And he went to a reunion and he found out that there was just…, lot of them didn’t come and those that were there had just terrible health, hearing and sight and, of course, the malaria and emotional problems and trouble with marriages.  Some of ‘em weren’t even married anymore.  Alcoholics.  And there’s nobody to help ‘em. 

Medical people would miss this quite often.  They had no idea really what they had been through.  A lot of the doctors that had been in the war did, of course, and they’d seen so many really terrible things.  And to this day if you have a man, he’s quite older now, he’s maybe eighty, maybe even older, they can’t talk about this.  They start to cry. 

I had a man tell me a story just recently and he started…, tears rolled down his face.  That I saw myself, that he was trying to tell one incident that had happened, a terrible thing. 

But they would come home; everybody thought everything was alright.  They didn’t want to go work at this job and have some little sniveling boss that was probably 4-F tell him what to do anymore.  And it was hard for him.  And they never showed you so much outward.  You could tell if you were close to them, but they tried to hide all this. 

And we have whole generations there of men, especially—although the women are in the service too—but the men that just could not get along in daily life, to keep a job, to keep a marriage, and to go to church.  Some of them had…, some of them their faith were stronger.  My uncle’s was.  He said if he hadn’t had his faith he couldn’t have gotten along.  He wouldn’t be alive in the camp.  They had dysentery in those camps, and on and on, and he just kept on going.  And the work ethic.  So he would be happy to do the terrible work they were given to do just to have something to do. 

And then they were home and they had to change, and it was just like a switch, he said.  He come home and he sat at this table with all this food on it and family, and he would hug everybody and then he would hug ‘em again.  Yet to get along in everyday life it must have been terrible for him, and I think it still is.  And we should have known that with the Vietnam people when we were so terrible to them.  We should have known that.  But a younger person that, that’s…, I always think it of these gang members that you talk about in big cities, if they would see some of that once, they would know.

What did you do after the war?  Well, after the war I was continuing in school.  Of course, I was young when this all happened.  And all the people that told me I was living history at the time, my mother, is why I probably remember it.  But life was different for a while.  But then we got into the Korean War, we got into the Vietnam War.  When I was in high school young men were going to the Korean War, and I had friends and classmates that got killed in those wars.

Did you get married?  Well, I was first married in 1952, and I was married at Hawaii, where I saw these things.  And we just had the wedding at my uncle’s.  My mother felt better about me going. 

They didn’t come.  They didn’t have that kind of money.  And I had just my ticket to go to Hawaii to marry my service man.  I had worked at root beer stands and [the] dime store, and I saved $310.00, and it took $309.87 to fly over there (she laughs).  And we married, and then we came back to Wisconsin Rapids, of course.

Did you have any children?  Yes.  I had three children with my first marriage.  And I had…, my firstborn had a brain injury, and he lived to be seven and a half.  And I had a stillborn little girl, and then I have my son, Walter, from that marriage.  And then my husband wanted someone else, so I married in 1964…, I married Vernon Hagen.  And we have a daughter.  And so I have a daughter and a son, and they live around here.  And they were brought up as brother and sister, and they speak of each other as brother and sister.

And when did you move to Waupun?  19…, late 1968. 

I did see the prisoner—a lot of things I didn’t say—the prisoner of war, the prisoners of Germany in Marshfield.  I did see them when I was a child at Marshfield, also.

So you actually saw prisoners?  Yes.  We were not to speak to them on the way to the swimming pool.  They were taking down something there with some mallets in the hot sun and hitting this great big thing that looked like a silo thing to me.  It was just off of main street in Marshfield.  And my mother said…, my grandma said, “Do not talk to ‘em.”  And they were whistling…, whistling at me, a little girl walking along in her swimming suit.  And I just marched right by. 

And then they had…, after the war, my cousin and I, we saw all the windows in Marshfield were all decorated with souvenirs from the war.  German helmets, the swastika flags, every store had…, through Marshfield we walked up and down, he and I, and saw the windows at night.  That’s a flashback to that, I guess (she laughs).

In closing is there anything else you would like to say?  Gee, I don’t know.  I just think that this history is very important, and I think when I tell my granddaughters about some of this they just look at you.  And just I think it’s so important that this is remembered.  And it was a time in life that when you look back at it now with nostalgia it’s a little different.  But it was hard for people.  Like I said, you didn’t even have a band-aid.  So many things like that. 

But I lived through a lot of times when you think of all the things that have been discovered since then.  And some of those things come from the war.  The wonderful jackets we have now with the stuffing that they put in them, that was all found out in the war.  Many things like that. 

But I thank you for this opportunity to have this written down somewhere and recorded.  And someone will read it sometime and then maybe they will know too.

Well, thank you for coming in.  Oh, you’re welcome.


[1] WPA stands for Works Projects Administration.  The WPA was established in 1935 by Presidential order and was funded by Congress through 1943 when it was disbanded due to the war boom.  The WPA provided jobs and income for many of the unemployed during the Great Depression, and built roads, parks, arts, literary, and drama projects.


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Last updated on 27 Jan 2013 .   

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