A Day In The Life: Walter, Blanche and Hazel – World War ll

WWll-Walter & Blanche_0001

Walter & Blanche Thompson

They lived together on Piper Blvd. in Detroit, Michigan:  Walter (my grandfather), Blanche (my grandmother) and Hazel (my aunt). The time was 1945 (more or less). I can guess at the date because there is a picture of my cousin Ed on the mantle, and he looks to be five or six years of age. The War was coming to a close. Detroit was getting ready to resume making the cars which guaranteed its existence.

Photographic images, now so old, remind me of my grandparent’s home: the clock with it’s hands stopped at 7:40; the iron figures on the mantle;  the pipe holder; the ash tray, close to wherever my grandfather sat; the sewing basket placed behind my grandmother’s chair; the doily’s on the arm rests of the chair; the old Zenith radio with the globe of the world on top; grandpa’s Spanish-American War momento’s framed and hung on the wall behind his rocking chair; Mickey, their dog, held close to my grandmother or aunt – all were a part of their every-day life.

Grandpa didn’t fight in this war; he was far too old, and retired from U.S. Rubber Co., where he had worked most of his adult life.  During the war he was called back to help keep the factory working.  Most of the younger men were away fighting the war, but tires for the Jeeps and planes were needed, and Grandpa knew how the old machines worked and how to keep them producing for a while longer.  He was an “Air-Raid Warden” during the war.  On nights when there was a “black-out,” he would don his coat and hat with a flashlight attached to it, and travel the few blocks surrounding his home to make sure that everyone had their lights turned out.

Grandma was almost always quiet, and liked the house to be quiet, even when us kids were around.  I remember playing the piano in the front room for  brief  moments, and just when the noise of the piano reached a crescendo, grandma would come in and close the cover to the keyboard and quietly say: “That’s enough for now.” She sewed sometimes, mostly darning sox or repairing rips in grandpa’s shirts, but the activity I remember most was of her writing notes.   Grandma had almost perfect penmanship.   Someday you will see her high school notebooks and the perfect penmanship which adorned each page, but for now just imagine a period when there was time allotted to write a brief note, or compile a grocery list for the following day, or sign a birthday card for one of her grandchildren which came with a freshly ironed dollar bill folded neatly and placed inside the envelope.

Hazel probably took most of the pictures you will see – even the one’s with her in them.  She had a timer attached to the camera which allowed her to set up the picture to be taken and then scamper into the assembled photo.

The central event of the evening was the fire in the fireplace.  I can still smell the acrid air coming from the coal fed fire and the smoke from grandpa’s pipe or cigar, mixing with the other smells of the house: warm toast in the kitchen, “mentholatium”  from the upstair’s bathroom, mint candies hidden in some drawer which sometimes were offered to me, powder which grandma put on her body.

All of these images, smells and memories rush into my head and heart when I look at these photos.  I hope you will take enough time to recollect some of your own memories of a time in Detroit when the world was at war, but where peace and tranquility  filled that very special home at 762 Piper Blvd.


WWll Hazel and Walter

Hazel and Walter

WWll-Walter reading

Walter Thompson

WWll Blanche reading

Blanche Thompson

Blanche Thompson with dog Micky

Blanche Thompson with dog Micky

Bertha Officer, Aunt Hazel's life long friend

Bertha Officer, Aunt Hazel’s life long friend

WWll Hazel and Blanche

Hazel and Blanche

WWll Blanche and Hazel notes

Blanche and Hazel

Grandma writing a note, Aunt Hazel looking on

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