The Year Was…

The  year was 1942.  My Dad was graduating from Jr. High.  He was 16 and went on to a trade school, which is what boys did in those days.  Those boys not studying medicine, or engineering, or history or art or any other college-bound area of learning.  They went to a business high school or a trade school and were taught skills to GET A JOB once they graduated.  I know, freaky concept, eh?  We need more of these now, but let’s save that for another post.

We’ve all seen the movies.  The War was on and thousands were enlisting.  Young men were leaving school and signing up to defeat the Hun.  I can imagine a 16 year old listening to the radio, going to the movies and seeing the newsreels and itching to go.  Yet, in September, he started High School — but not for long.  Soon, he’d quit school and enlist in the Navy and do his part.  More about that later.

The following people were BORN in 1942:  Jerry Garcia, Paul McCartney, Stephen Hawking, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Biden.  I’m just sayin.  When my Dad was 16, these people who are now OLD or DEAD were just wee infants cooing and playing with their toes.

Instant coffee was introduced.  I can see the logic in this, what with all those coffee-lovin men overseas.  Probably no surprise, FDR was president.

The big movies of 1942 were The Road to Morocco, Bambi, Casablanca, Holiday Inn and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Here’s the part you’ll like:

  • The average house cost $3,770.00.

  • The average wage was $1,880 a year.

  • The price of a new car = $920.00

  • And Gas, which was rationed at 3 gallons a week, was just 15 cents a gallon.

And so, the 16 year old turned 17 and ran off to join the Navy and see the world and do 300px-USS_Richard_P._Leary;0566403battle.  Well, in those days, that’s what boys did.  They felt it was their duty to enter the service.  And judging from the numbers you see marching off in the movies and the newsclips, they did it in great droves.  His separation papers CLEARLY show his correct birthdate, and on the date of his enlistment, he had just turned 17 a few weeks before.  I guess they turned a blind eye, as I think the legal age for enlistment was probably still 18, but since they were needing all the men they could get, they took these boys.  The Richard P. Leary saw it’s duty in the Pacific.  Dad went to the Philippines and apparently Iwo Jima, and I think he said Hawaii.  According to him, he’d been to Hawaii during the war and had no real desire to return (with my Mother, who really wanted to go there!)  Of course, he relented.  They returned for their 25th anniversary!

We all like to think that it was OUR father, uncle, grandfather, etc. who single-handedly shot down a squadron of planes, sending the kamikazes spiraling navy dadinto the deep blue sea, but truth be told, he was just 17 and didn’t have much experience.  Rumor has it he was a “cook” though with his limited cooking skills I’d seriously doubt that.  I’m thinking “swabbie”.  You know, the guys who were always swabbing the deck?  That’s how I see him spending his wartime hitch.  Wearing a cute blue sailor suit and swabbing the deck.

This is NOT the picture of the Richard P. Leary that I’ve looked at all my life.  My dad had a framed pen & ink (I think) drawing of this ship hung at our NJ summer home that was just part of the furniture.  I know it’s been water damaged over the years and I should probably get that fixed one day.

But this is the image I have of my dad when he was in his mid to late teens. 

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