The theme of World War II continues on Monday for the next program of the Lansing Historical Society with Antonio Delgado’s presentation, "Amigos of the Allies: Mexicans in World War II." He’ll explore the contributions of Mexicans during the war through welcoming Jewish refugees, deployment of large numbers of immigrant labor to fill labor shortages in the U.S. and combat service of Mexican-Americans. It takes place at the Lansing Public Library at 6 p.m.
The first meeting of the year was an evening of shared memories from locals about the war. I was pleased to see how many attended, including several from other area towns — Calumet City, Homewood, Chicago Heights and Lynwood. We were fortunate to have Jean Tomasik, of Homewood, there who talked about her experience working for the British military with the task of jamming enemy radar. It was so interesting.
Others commented about family members who had served. Roseann Mize, of Lansing, mentioned the service of her father and a cousin. “I can see that beige uniform like he is standing right there,” she said.
Paul Schultz, of Lansing, talked about the victory celebration he remembered when the war ended, that included a local newspaper man shredding his papers into confetti. He sat on a curb on Ridge Road watching as people in Lansing celebrated in the streets.
Virginia Schassburger, of Lansing, showed a scrapbook of her husband’s time in the Marines during World War II and talked about how much her children cherish it.
There was discussion about how grease was saved to use for the manufacturing of ammunition. Some of these stories sound so foreign and are hard for those of us who came after that generation to comprehend. Lansing resident Betty Tobin said that when she was a child, there were huge barrels in her back yard for saving grease and everyone in the neighborhood would bring grease to their house that her family saved for the war effort.
There was talk about war bonds. Joe Wells, of Chicago Heights, brought books full of war bond materials to show the group. Steve Sikorski, of Calumet City, talked about why there was a shortage of nylons and donated some sand from Normandy for the museum with a P38 can opener.
Others shared memories of the welcome home celebrations and rationing of items, everything from silk stockings to bubble gum. They talked about having neighborhood watchmen who would knock on your doors and tell you to turn out your lights after a certain hour, on the chance that a lit up home could be spotted from the sky by a bomber. It really brought to life that time in history, which is so different from how we function today. Here we are at war, but there are no rations or bombing drills at school. I can’t imagine having to scoop up my bacon grease and take it to a neighbor’s house to help the war effort. Stories like these are ones that need to be told and we are all ears. If you’d like to share your memories, you’ll find forms at the museum for recording them or feel free to email me at email@example.com, so that we can add your stories to the collection we’re compiling at the Lansing Historical Museum.
Be sure to also mark your calendars for 6 p.m. Oct. 22 when Don Olsen will talk about his brother’s military service and a ceremony he attended in France this past summer where a memorial was erected in honor of the crew of the “Boxcar,” a bomber that was shot down on June 7, 1944. Olsen’s brother was one of the men lost in that crash.