A six-year-old living in southern Ohio at the start of World War II, Linda Hall witnessed the effect of a distant war on her small town.
Interviewee: Linda Hall
Interviewers: Simon Belcher, Emily Holt, Joseph Switt
Date of Interview: June 8, 2016
Letter From a Childhood Crush
There was a young man who worked at the pharmacy when we lived in an apartment on 2nd street that faced the river. We moved out of that apartment and moved in to the house on 4th street. And about the same time, Robert Sell and I became friends. Because we had freedom, we could go outside and do whatever we wanted to. Nobody paid any attention to what you were doing during the day. And I would go over and hang out at the drug store and talk to Robert Sell. Well then when we moved to 4th street, he got a job with the government working at the post office. And I would go to the post office and run errands. I was only four or five, but I was allowed to do that on my own — cross the street and go to the post office. And I found out that we had the same birthday; we were both born July 29th. On my birthday, my grandmother would make my big favorite cake, coconut cake. I always cut a big wedge of it for Robert, and I would take it over to Robert to the post office. One day, I guess I told him I was going to marry him. He sent me this wonderful letter, July 29, 1941. And I’ve saved it. Look at his [beautiful] handwriting.
He says, “Dear Linda:
Here’s wishing you a happy birthday. I’ve been sick in bed and I didn’t get down to the post office ’til too late to mail this. When I got there I found your two cards. That’s just like the little girl I know to remember me on my old birthday. You see I’m getting old and will be a grey-haired man by the time you grow up. I thought for a long time I’d wait for you but you’re too young to be my wife. I am going to get one that goes barefoot and wears an apron and smokes a pipe. Wouldn’t you?
He was drafted into the army, and he was killed.
A Neighbor Resents Dad’s Exemption
But because the Greyhound Bus carried troops different places, [my father] was exempt from the service which didn’t sit well with our [neighbor.] We lived in a little duplex house on 4th Avenue that we rented, and the family next door to us, Charles, or “Tad” Stead. He was the manager of the Kroger supermarket right across the street from us. And he had to go in the Navy, and his wife didn’t speak to us for four years because she was so upset that he had to go, and my dad didn’t have to go. And they had a little girl, my age, and we grew up for ten years like sisters because we were next door to each other. And she never knew that until I told her about it later in life, like a couple of years ago. And she said, “Oh, that sounds like my mother.”
A Migrant from Hendersonville, WV
Everybody took in somebody in a spare bedroom that was looking for work. All kinds of people came into town from outside of Virginia and West Virginia to find work which they [could] because the depression was slowly receding. And so we took in a lovely lady named Jean Boyd. She was from Hendersonville, I think Virginia, but maybe there was a Hendersonville, West Virginia, I’m not sure. Anyway, she was a beautiful lady, and she worked for a dentist as a dental assistant. She took our spare bedroom. And she was great at painting and drawing. She taught me how to do my own paper dolls and everything so I practically lived in her bedroom when she was there. I know I probably was a nuisance. Anyway, she came to my wedding shower; she was still living when I got married. And the woman, the people next door, my friend Donna’s parents, they took in a young man. I forget where he worked or what he did but that was what everybody was doing.
I remember asking my mother, “What’s on the front page of the newspapers when there is no war on?” That’s all I’d ever seen, all I’d ever seen. She would say, “Well, you know, they put the local news and put that on the front page then.”