Born in 1928, Jerry Bristoll was a teenager attending boarding school in Virginia during the war. A Chestertown native, she discusses how her childhood was centered on the Chester River.  Jerry also describes going to see President Roosevelt when he came into town.




Buying Rationed Groceries

There used to be a grocery store right up on the corner where Evergrain Bakery is now. And I can remember mother would give me, well say a quarter, and I could go up and buy yeast cake which you use for baking, isn’t that right? And a loaf of bread. Wesson oil, which is all we had then, was rationed. And I can remember having to go on up for one. The other grocery stores were up on High Street well about where Bob Ramsey has the Finishing Touch. A&P and Stams were right next door, and so mother sent me up for some Wesson oil, and I dropped the bottle. And I just wept, I didn’t know what else to do. Because of course it was rationed, and I couldn’t get it anymore.


Cantaloupes for Sale

One thing I’ll always remember is this time of the year, somebody coming down the street saying “Loupes for sale!” Cantaloupes. “Loupes for sale!”

And our ice was delivered. Well, maybe yours was too. We all had ice boxes; we didn’t have electric. They were not electric. I remember sometimes we’d just follow the guy because he’d give us a big hunk of ice, and that’s always nice to suck on.



Our lives revolved around the church. I went to Emmanuel Church, and I can remember that every Sunday Dr. Atwater, who was the minister, would read the names of our boys, so to speak, who were in the service. And they’d bring out the American flag. That’s why my generation is a big American flag person, and we’d all sing a patriotic song which people don’t seem to sing in much anymore. I don’t know what’s happened to patriotism.


Swimming in the Chester River

During the War, we played all over Water Street. We weren’t allowed to go too far away. In the summer, the Naval Academy ships would come over, and they would all get out and walk the streets. So they were so happy to be on the street. And I can remember being with my father, and they all, of course, would salute him. And I just thought, “Well, isn’t that wonderful?” But [it was] a simple thing. Our lives revolved around the river. Not many people here were really affected by the War.

I had a row boat when I was young, really young. And then my cousin, who lived right next door and I decided we’d swim across the river (laughs), and we did. We got a little boy who lived up the street who could row. Now whether he could’ve saved us had we run into trouble, I know we swam over then we swam back. And every time we swam, we came in with a beard from the river because all these places down here, the sewer went right out in the river. I know, and the doctor gave us a shot every spring for typhoid fever. Maybe that’s why we’re all so well, ‘cause we were exposed to everything. I had a sailboat. and we sailed every day. We would get in the boats and go sail down to the country club. The water was cleaner there (laughs).


FDR’s Visit

My father [said], “That man, FDR, oh yes he’s ruining the country.” They say that about so many of them, and I think the most amazing thing is that Harry Truman is come out smelling like a rose. And  he wasn’t so much but he was a sensible man. He didn’t come out with strange things that probably weren’t to be. And I can remember FDR came here. And I went down on Queen Street. And I had a little flag, and then when the president went by on his car, we all waived our flags.

How did you feel about that?

Well we were just told we were going. I mean our lives really revolved around what somebody else told us to do. You all just can’t understand that. (laughs). And we never argued with them. You just did it.



  • First Interview

    Conducted June 9 2015

    Interviewer: Emma Buchman


    Second Interview

    Conducted June 27, 2017

    Interviewers: Cherie Ciaudella, Maria Betancur, and Cullen Joyce