They stopped taking long car trips, visited relatives sparingly, and did so by bus.

They signed up for the service and traveled overseas.

"Everybody was in the war," Margaret (Peg) George said, of the country's reaction during World War II. "We all knew we were at war."

By: Toni Becker

They worked in factories, grew gardens and cut meat out of daily meals.

They stopped taking long car trips, visited relatives sparingly, and did so by bus.

They signed up for the service and traveled overseas.

"Everybody was in the war," Margaret (Peg) George said, of the country's reaction during World War II. "We all knew we were at war."

And it's those stories collected from the women who stayed on the homefront, working in factories, collecting used rubber and tin cans, who worked in local hospitals and signed up for the service to care for the sick and wounded that are told in George's appropriately titled book, "We Knew We Were at War: Women Remember World War II."

"It's not often told how what we did on the home-front allowed us to win the war overseas in Europe and the Pacific," George said, of the self-published book that tells the first-hand account of 46 women - mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and service women.

Among the personal accounts featured in the book are those of Mary Naomi George Stokes and Myrtle George Nase, both originally from Trumbauersville, and the sisters-in-law of George. Her husband, Glenn, of 54 years, was also a native of Trumbauersville.

"Today only those families with loved ones in the service are paying the price," George said, of the differences in the wars. "Everybody's living the lives they want to. Traveling with gas at the price it is. We had rations for gas. You only got a little bit of gas.

"It comes up in stories here. They stopped trips to their grandmother's house. They couldn't see their daughter married in Washington State. You could not travel. And you could not even do much traveling by train because it was costly. Plus the trains were all being used to move war personnel."

Personal accounts range from the years leading up to America's role in the war in 1941 to its end in 1945, and tell the stories of women and their families, women in uniform, at work, as military wives and overseas.

One story told to George by Anna Elizabeth Shaddinger, who passed away in 2003, includes memories of not only World War II but the first World War.

Each of the stories offers a glimpse into the life of the women, with their accounts of high school, college, marriage, becoming a mother or of everyday life, peppered with memories of practice air raids, rationing of food and other products, volunteering at hospitals or factories and working six days a week.

"People were in the service and, if you weren't, you felt ostracized," George said, relating the experience of her own brother, a ministerial student, who was not allowed to enlist.

And people did whatever they could do to support the war.

"Even children did," George said. "Children collected aluminum foil, collected rubber, tires and things like that. And everybody was doing it so you didn't really feel like you were being put upon. Everybody had rations. I don't use the word 'sacrifice' because it's not until you get to these stories at the end with the people in Europe until you realize what sacrifice was."

Those stories are the accounts of Marga Scharmacher, Lilian Abele, Marion Anderson and Helen Schneider.

In 1942, Myrtle Nase gave birth to her first child; the second was born in 1945.

While she and her husband were able to get extra rations for oil and heat because of their small children, Nase recalls rationing for food and using oleomargarine, which had a red button to squeeze so its white coloring would turn yellow to resemble butter.

"Since fresh food was at a premium, we used lots of canned products and then we would take the lids off both ends, step on the cans and recycle them," Nase recalls, as written in the book.

Her story also includes memories of purchasing war bonds for $18.75, or war stamps, which could be collected and placed on a card to eventually be turned in for a bond.

"That's how we paid for the war," George said. "I suppose we went into debt, but we also paid for it while we went along."

In contrast to her younger sister's life during the war, Naomi Stokes, a registered nurse, enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps Reserve.

Stokes spent part of the time in the Panama Canal Zone at Fort Amador treating soldiers who had malaria and wounded paratroopers that had been injured during practice.

She later came back to the United States to work at McCloskey General Hospital in Texas, which was a center for amputee and paraplegics.

Many of the stories, told by the younger women of the time, talk about returning soldiers after the war, and their attendance in local colleges, funded by the GI Bill. At least three accounts, including George's own story, remember German families that suddenly disappeared.

"Nice family in the neighborhood and this was in the early 1930s," George said, of a young German boy who lived nearby, and whose father worked in the shipyard. "And all of a sudden the little boy didn't go to school one day.

When we came home from school, here we learned in the middle of the night, the night before, the family had moved out. So, we all think the father was a spy."

A high school student during the time, George, a resident of Chester, Pa., went to work at Westinghouse Electric Company during the summer months, working long hours, six days a week.

Her mother knit white bandages and khaki sweaters and her father tended his "Victory Garden."

When researching for the book, George began finding many more women who had similar stories.

"I was going to stop at 35 but people kept telling me to go on," George said.

"There are lots of stories. I got such a response from all ages."

The idea for the book came out of an assignment George did while attending a class at Gwyneth Mercy College, where she had to write a piece of history from the perspective of a woman.

So she decided to write about her own experience as a high school student during the war. Then she began to ask others what they were doing during World War II.

George, a former state representative, also wrote another book, "Never Use Your Dim Lights: Not Even in the Fog," about her political journey to the State House of Representatives.

With the current war in Iraq, it also seemed like the perfect time for the book.

"Well that's why I wrote the book," George said. "I mean it's obvious. We knew we were at war."

Today, she said, that's not as clear.

"Just look around us," she said. "Everything that's happened to these young fellows these families are the only ones who are suffering. It seems world is going on normal, even my life.

"The war is very distant. We don't seem to be doing anything to help the war."

The biggest difference between World War II and the current one, she said, is how people feel about it.

"There's more books coming out on - it might be sparked by these two wars - a just war," George said. "What is a just war and how is a just war waged?

"Clearly we all thought that was a just war."

For a copy of, or more information about "We Knew We Were at War: Women Remember World War II," please visit www.PegGeorge.com. The books are now available at Lion Around Books on Broad St., Quakertown.

Toni Becker is a reporter for The Free Press. She can be reached at tkbecker@berksmontnews.com.

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