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Memories of Perry County during World War II

  • Arthur Keller with his daughter, Phyllis, taken while he was home on leave from the U.S. Navy during World War II.

    Arthur Keller with his daughter, Phyllis, taken while he was home on leave from the U.S. Navy during World War II.
    Courtesy of Phyllis Holland

  • After training in the U.S., Frank H. Terrell was evidently shipped out to the Pacific Theater, according to his notes.

    After training in the U.S., Frank H. Terrell was evidently shipped out to the Pacific Theater, according to his notes.
    provided photo

  • President Roosevelt's prologue, on the right-hand page, above, appeared in every copy of the what became known as the Soldiers Bible.

    President Roosevelt's prologue, on the right-hand page, above, appeared in every copy of the what became known as the Soldiers Bible.
    provided photo

  • Arthur and Madge Keller in Tamaroa.

    Arthur and Madge Keller in Tamaroa.
    Courtesy of Phyllis Holland

updated: 2/9/2018 1:25 PM

We asked Perry County residents for their memories of the homefront here during World War II. We hope you enjoy these essays.


It was a long time ago, but I do remember several events that affected my family.

Looking back, I was 10 years old. My dad had his own neighborhood grocery store. Our home was attached to it. As for food, we did all right.

Like a lot of families, we only had meat on Sundays. At the time, I was the only child in the family. My dad felt sorry for his customers, so he allowed them to charge their food.

Jobs were scarce and food stamps were carefully guarded. At the end of each week, families would pay what they could, but most times it didn't cover the bill.

Many would send their children to get bread, milk and the necessities and it soon added it. So, how did it affect me?

Well, I needed a coat. I had outgrown my last winter coat and there just wasn't money for extra anything. Mom would say, "Be thankful, we have food and a home."

I knew what she meant, but I loved the coat I had seen in the shop window.

As it turned out, a church member had a child that had outgrown her coat. It definitely wasn't new, and it didn't exactly fit me. It was warm and my mother was so thankful for it.

I wore it and pretended it was the coat I had wanted so badly.

My father never did receive the money for so much food that had been "sold." He just didn't have the heart to press charges.

My father, Mr. Herman Swisher, was called "The Bee Man." This was actually more than a hobby.

He had 150 colonies of bees. He kept them on various farms. The farmers liked having his "supers" on their farms and when he extracted the honey, they received several jars.

During the winter, bees live on a sugar solution.

We had plenty of sugar war ration books. Dad would sometimes trade the stamps with other families to get silk stockings and other things my mother needed that required ration stamps.

It had to be a necessity. Dad was a stickler for the rules.

There wasn't a lot I could do, as I was young and my parents would not allow me to go from house to house to collect tin cans in the drives.

But if an adult went along, than I could go. I loved pulling the wagon.

There was a curfew and we were not allowed outside after a certain time. This was true of children, unless your parents sat on the porch and watch you jump rope or play jacks.

-- Mrs. Colleen Fury, Du Quoin


I was raised 2 miles east of Cutler. It was during World War II when I was in high school.

We got on the bus at 6 a.m. after walking 2 miles to the bus stop in all kinds of weather. It was also during daylight saving time.

There was rationing of food, gas, tires and other things. We had all kinds of rationing stamps that were based on the size of your family and need.

My dad was too young for World War I and too old for World War II, but his brother was in the Navy on a carrier in World War II and was torpedoed, but not sunk.

He was black-headed, but the day after the attack, his hair had turned snow white and was that way until he passed away.

I had cousins in the service, but if there were more in the family, they were not allowed in the same branch. They were in the Air Force and Navy, Army and Navy, Army and Army medics.

Our Sunday school class wrote to all the servicemen from our church during the war and there were several.

I finished up high school and later married a fellow who had been in the Army mechanized cavalry (he drove vehicles), and his brother -- who had gone from Italy to France in the foot cavalry -- were on the bridge at the Battle of the Bulge the same day.

One was a guard when the other went across, but they didn't recognize each other. My husband was discharged on Aug. 9, 1946.

-- Mrs. Florence Griffin, Pinckneyville


My name is Charles E. Gaines and I am 85 years old. I was very young during the war.

We lived in the country and I walked to school, about one mile each way.

My dad walked two to three miles each day to work for very little pay. They dug ditches and worked on gravel roads with a little shovel.

We had one pair of shoes at the start of the school year and our shoes would get holes in the bottom. We put cardboard in the bottom and wore them.

You could not buy groceries because there was no money. We charged groceries at the store and paid for them when we got money. We had chickens and cattle so we traded eggs for groceries. We had our own milk and butter. We would sell the eggs to the grocer and then buy groceries.

My dad worked for the WPA (Work Projects Administration), they had a round piece of brass with a number on it.

While walking around in our backyard a couple of years ago, I found one of the tags.

If you were lucky enough to have a car, gas was rationed and you had to have a stamp to get gas. At times, things got so bad, you had to get a few clothes from Good Will (government).

For a medical doctor, it was $2, gasoline was 25 cents a gallon and a pack of cigarettes was 15 cents.

Ice cream was 5 cents a cone and soda was 5 cents a bottle. Very few people had the 5 cents.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. After that, there was more work. My dad and brother went to work in Indiana building ships for the Navy.

We always had a big garden. We had a blind mule to plow our garden. Because he was blind, Dad didn't make him do much.

Mom canned and put up lots of food for the winter months.

Our mail was delivered by horse and buggy three times a week. Stamps to mail a letter were 3 cents.

When I was 17 years of age, I was still working for $3 per day. I started working in the oil field for $1.25 an hour and I thought I was getting rich.

During the war, one boy who I went to school with was killed on Pork Chop Hill. Some families had three or four sons fighting in the war all at one time.

-- Charles E. Gains, Du Quoin


For many years, the men in our family have been serving in the military.

My uncle, William Mann, was in the Navy during World War II.

My grandfather was in the Army in 1917 and was stationed in France. My uncle, Bill Manning, was in the Korean War.

My brother, Tom Billings, was a Marine and was in Vietnam for 10 years and my cousin, Ronny Manning, was in the Army for 20 years during Desert Storm.

Just like other families, I take great pride in the fact that my family members served our country, even though our loved ones being away during those times were hard for everyone.

-- Sharon Stanley, Du Quoin


Our family lived and grew up in Tamaroa. My father, Arthur Philip Keller, was a seaman in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

My mother, Madge Keller, held down the homefront while daddy was overseas. I was born in February 1942 and both mother and I were elated when Daddy came home on leave.

Even as a little girl, I was so proud of my daddy.

-- Phyllis Madge Holland, Tamaroa


Millions of American soldiers during World War II were given a special edition of the Gideon Bible, which contained a prologue written for them by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This particular Bible was issued to soldier Frank H. Terrell, born in Murphysboro. Today it belongs to an employee of the Gold Plate program of Perry County, an adult day care center in Du Quoin.

We know that Frank Terrell was given the Bible on July 18, 1943 and that like many soldiers, he kept a record of his movements on the third page.

His wife, Millie, stayed with her parents in East St. Louis until he returned from the war, when together they moved back to California.

Millie died in 1977 and Frank passed away in 1987.

-- Gold Plate Program of Perry County