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Most folks my age will never forget how Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, changed our lives forever.
For you youngsters, that’s the day the Japanese attacked our naval installation, Pearl Harbor.
That was one rough month for me.
Reality sunk in when Sears, Roebuck & Co. canceled my order for a J.C. Higgins Roadmaster Deluxe bicycle because someone in Greensboro thought it would be needed by the Army to fight the enemy.
I still bet somebody whose daddy worked for Sears got my bicycle for Christmas.
We were reeling from the attack and all kinds of things were in short supply.
In early 1942, local thieves were making off with automobile tires, which were now rationed.
Police Chief H.A. Montgomery wasn’t very happy about the situation either.
Somebody would come out to go to work and find a car that was one wheel short. Montgomery was checking all around town for the culprits.
It had gotten so bad that a lot of folks wised up and removed the spare tire that was mounted on the trunk or over the back bumper.
They would hide the spare in the pantry or under the bed in the company bedroom for safekeeping.
When I walked downtown, policemen everywhere were bending down to eye everybody’s tires.
They were looking for new tread and for tires that had been recently wound in that heavy brown paper.
That tire paper sorta reminded me of a mummy that came right out of an Egyptian pyramid, or that cloth getup Tom Tyler wore in “The Mummy’s Hand.”
Somebody was defiling the temples of the rubber tires and the local police force was out to give ’em a “cruel and vile fate.”
New tires were easy to spot. One month after all the public vehicles were taken care of, there was a grand total of 21 new tires available for sale.
I wonder if Chief Huey and his boys ever found the stolen goods.
Hiding a brand new tire, or any tire was right hard to do.
I remember seeing at least two automobiles sitting on blocks inside of a vacant building between Burns Chevrolet and Duke Power on Main Street more than once.
I don’t know it was because of the tires or something else, but those cars stayed on blocks until the war was over. I sure would have liked to have been there when the owners came back from the war and drove them out.
Folks who needed tires weren't the only ones in a bind.
I heard Uncle Harry tell Daddy that moonshiners were fussing about the shortage of sugar, which explained the county’s recent increase in sugar cane growers.
Old tires, tubes, hose pipes and worn-out fan belts never had a chance; they were big items at local scrap drives.
Just about every Saturday morning, I walked Chesterfield Avenue searching for tin cans. As soon as my croaker sack was full, I’d lug them home and dump them out by the garage water spigot and start peeling off the paper labels. Using an old can opener, I removed the bottom lid, tucked it inside the open can and stomped it flat with my right foot.
Bless Pete, the bird was doing his part for the war effort.
Since old newspapers were on the scrap list, the bird didn’t get to study over yesterday’s news in his cage quite as much. Those old papers also became shoe patches, too.
Mama had a real knack for mashing soap slivers into a new bar. Talk about an unusual scent, I smelled more like Cambuoy than Lifebuoy or Camay.
I guess nowadays, in this throwaway society, nobody feels the urge to reuse old stuff out of necessity. Besides, it would be too much trouble.
Meat rationing led to an earthworm shortage, with so many folks going down to the creek or the Catawba to catch a meal.
We somehow lived through it, I figure, mainly because everybody was in the same boat.
I hope these younger folks are adept to tough times and making things stretch.
Everyday, something else gets in short supply or goes up in price.
Maybe neighborhood stores will return so we can walk instead of cranking up the family gas guzzler and riding off to the supercenter.
I’m still leery of those electric cars. You know, they are just a cut above my great grand’s power wheels which has to be recharged frequently. I just hope nobody steals the tires off of it.