Lyle Feisel was a farm boy with 3 brothers in the military during WWII. as well as general farm life in the 1940’s. He lived on an Iowa farm with his family and spoke a lot of the rationing put upon farming communities. He discusses being loaned out as communal labor as a child as all the farmers helped each other during the war.
Kids Put to Work
One of the interesting things probably about the war. Pearl Harbor, I was 6 years old. And so, by the next summer 1942, a lot of the young men in the area had gone away, so the kids got put to work. And so, at the ages of 6 and 7 and 8 I was driven tractors out in the field, you know, can you imagine putting a 6-year-old on a tractor today. I was driving horses, haul hay up into the barn and so on. And I worked, not only on our farm, but as I said earlier we traded labor a lot so I always go out and work for these other farmers out on loan. And the one of them had a tractor, it was an old tractor with a floor clutch. The tractors we had had a hand clutch but this one had a foot clutch just like you’d have on a car, except the springs on it were so stiff that I couldn’t push in the clutch so we would go out to the field and the farmer who I was working with would get down and he would start the tractor up and I would sit there and steer. And he’d be up on the hayrack loading the hay. We’d go around and when it came time to stop he’d climb down and push in the clutch and it would be fine. So, that was very common it wasn’t just our family, there were 6 and 8 and 10-year-old kids working all over the Midwest. I guess if you go back in history not so very long it was not uncommon for 6 and 8-year old’s to be working in mines and factories and so on so, we kinda went back to that for a few years.
VJ Day Celebration
I remember more about VJ Day, because you know, well I don’t know why because I guess it was a greater celebration because it was really the end of the war. I think I remember these things, I don’t know if it’s true or not but I remember them. It was in August something or other and one of the crops that was growing around in Iowa where I grew up was sweet corn. And at that time sweet corn was all picked by hand so you do it out of the field with these wagons and pick sweet corn. And the tradition there was for neighbors to help each other so we were picking sweet corn. I was driving the tractor in the field and suddenly somebody started yelling “hey look here over here” and we lived about two miles from this little town of Tama, Iowa. And we heard the whistle at the paper mill going off just continuous. And pretty soon somebody came running out “The War is Over; The War is Over” and that was the end of the sweet corn. Everybody took off for town, and they even took us little kids along, which was kind of interesting because they were all going in to party and celebrate. So, we went in and I can still remember they had a big bonfire in the middle of town, they were burning tires. Saving tires was one of the big deals. And we don’t need to save those suckers anymore so we burned tires. It was a great celebration. We had a lot of relief because we all had brothers and sisters and cousins and what not in the military and this was now over with so – what a thrill.
Newsreels about the War
There were movies, we went occasionally to movies and that was, one of the features of the movie was the newsreel and it was the movie toon news and it always opened the same way with showing military recruits or somebody training what I remember. I haven’t thought about this for years but what I remember was, there was one scene in the introduction of the movie toon news with I suppose soldiers doing jumping jacks, a whole bunch of them doing jumping jacks. I remember that. So, and that’s where we got a lot of our military or our news about the war was with these.