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Adelaide McLeod

Adelaide McLeod grew up in Boise and attended Boise High in the 1940's along with Bethine Church.

Jim: What was Boise like in those days, what do you remember?

[Image: Adelaide McLeod]

Adelaide: Well Boise was really small, if you went downtown and there was someone you didn't hadn't seen before you knew they were from out of town, it was like that. Things were, were quite different, people wore, or women wore hats and gloves and always a dress to go downtown and there were maybe oh three restaurants is all and there were oh I guess you'd call 'em dry good stores, and some dime stores and a bank or two and that was about it.

Jim: What was it like here at the edge of the depression, what were those years like?

Adelaide: I didn't know anything else really and I had a very good time growing up. We made our own fun and everyone else was in the same boat. I never, I don't think any of us ever felt like we were deprived. The neighborhoods were full of children and we all got together and played games in our alleys. It didn't seem to matter and, I don't know, it was just a really nice time to grow up I think.

Jim: What was nice about it? When you say it was a nice; I mean you sort of smiled a little when you were thinking about those years.

Adelaide: Well let's see what was nice about. Well first of all families were close and I don't know . . . the simplicity of it I guess. When I compare it to what exists now, I had lots of friends and, well, simple things. Like I can remember my mother pulling taffy and all the neighbor children would come in and pull taffy and, and things like that.

Jim: When, when you say pulling taffy, I'm not even sure what that means.

Adelaide: Oh well, making candy, and when you make candy, when you make taffy, you have to pull it before its ready to eat or its all kind of sugary and so it gets to a certain point and then, and then you take it on a spoon and, and take it in your hands and pull it and, and that's actually, well it was a kind of a tradition, it was one things my mother did that the children came in. My father saved string and, and paper from everything and made kites for every kid in the neighborhood and we had my grandmother living with us for a period of time and then my grandfather and so we were never really just my immediate family, there was always some relative there with us. I guess that's what I meant by the simplicity of it, we made our own fun, we didn't have a lot of things because that just wasn't the way it was and, and I think we were probably better off for that.

Jim: You talked about how some of downtown's been preserved and some of the areas kind of feel like they did.

Adelaide: Yes.

Jim: Are there ever moments when you walk around or you're driving around, and you get a flash of something that reminds you of the old days?

Adelaide: Oh all the time and I can't help that and of course as I was a realtor for 35 years and had my, my own company and I was hopefully a little instrumental in trying to preserve some of those buildings. Probably the saddest one was the City Hall. We had an adorable kind of gothic looking building down on the corner of 8th and Idaho and it's where the parking garage is now. It was, it was just classic. It was just a wonderful building and we were gone, we were living in Montana and we came back to visit and it was gone. And it just totally undid me. You know it just made me really sad, because it was, it was part of the downtown and, and much of what a town is, is its own history and they just wiped out a piece of it.

Jim: But certainly you must look at the parking garage and think oh my god it's magnificent?

Adelaide: Laughing Well it's a lovely parking garage, as parking garages go yes its fine.

Jim: Not quite the same?

Adelaide: No, not quite the same thing. But that's probably the most dramatic thing I can think of. Oh, the Eastman Building we worked really hard at trying to save the Eastman Building. And then some people who were cold in the wintertime, some street people, went in there to stay warm and they built a fire and it burned it down, it got away from them.

Jim: One of the buildings I always look at is the old Depot.

Adelaide: Yes, and at one time it was just a tremendous wide view between the depot and the capital building. And it's kind of too bad that it's blocked a little bit, because you could see the entire building, the entire capital building at one point.

Jim: We're talking sort of just in general about the years leading up to the war, before Pearl Harbor was bombed. That's obviously the big dramatic event.

Adelaide: Yes.

Jim: As things were leading up to that, was there a feeling that something was coming? I mean did you know that there was this big change on its way?

Adelaide: To some degree because my parents were really involved in what was going on around them and, you know, they discussed it at the dinner table. So yes, we were aware about the Nazis and about Germany and we had some fear about what it meant to our country and that sort of thing.

Jim: Was there that sense of looking back, wow, everything changed?

Adelaide: Yes it did. And it's rather odd to say that you had a golden time during the depression, but its sort of true, it really is. And it's kind of hard to explain, I guess it's not just that we lived in a small town. It was a very good time in our country and I can remember when the war started . . . my parents were staunch republicans and yet they were just squarely behind Franklin Roosevelt because he was president. And it bothers me that, that attitude doesn't still prevail you know. I mean it's . . . it's really sad what's happening in the country right now.

Jim: Sometimes I know it's hard not to look at what was going on then and look at what's going on now. I mean the country is certainly in another difficult spot.

Adelaide: Yeah well you know it. I guess it was a lot simpler then in a way, but there was a tremendous amount of patriotism and I think part of it came from the fact that we were all terribly involved in the war itself. I mean our friends were fighting the war and, and we were doing the things that we could do at home.

Jim: Where were you when you heard that Pearl Harbor had been bombed?

Adelaide: I was riding my bicycle and one of my friends, a young man, stopped us and he said, "Did you know we're at war?" And I thought, "What is he saying?" He said, "Yes our country's at war we're all going to go fight it." And I never will forget that.

Jim: What did you talk about at school?

Adelaide: It was definitely part of what we, what we were doing at school, I mean it wasn't like every minute of everyday, but you know there was a certain awareness about all of it and as soon as the war broke out well there were, I guess Juniors and Seniors boys were leaving school to go fight the war. Some of them didn't wait until they graduated, some of them did. You know we were all writing letters to them. Marian Falk who was a wife of a doctor here in Boise started a group of girls to sell war bonds and that's what we did. It was called the Minute Maids, kind of a take off on the Minutemen. Some of us were on bicycles or horseback or however and we would meet the trains and we would go to churches and we would go to the concerts and to the fair. Wherever there was a gathering of people to sell our war bonds. And we had kind of little halo hats that we wore and it was kind of an interesting thing that we did. But I always felt really good about that, I felt like I'm contributing a little bit.

Jim: I know when the war got started they had dances and things like that. What were those like? Did you go to those?

Adelaide: Oh absolutely. There was a lady by the name of Mrs. Trueblood that had dances at the YWCA. In the basement. They were for enlisted men and so we would go and dance to records, you know, canned music and we weren't allowed to leave with them. I don't know, I made some friends there did that for quite a while. Also there were the USO dances and of course we had both Gowen Field and Mountain Home Air Base so we had a lot of young officers here as well as enlisted men. It was a lot of dancing, a lot of dancing. I never was involved in the bar scene, but there was a big bar scene, I mean that the fellows would come in, you know, looking for something to do and so there was very often live music in the bars. They were more like cocktail bars not like a western bar you know.

Jim: What was it like when you were dancing and meeting these guys that were in the service and knew where they were probably headed?

Adelaide: Well you know, nobody seemed to dwell a lot on fear. Everybody felt like it was their job to do and they were going to do it. I can't say that's across the board, but that's the general feeling that you got. There were a lot of just really nice young men from all over the country and, and it was fun getting acquainted with them and some of them wrote letters and in fact at one time I had something like 17 correspondence and it was taking a whole lot of time.

Jim: You must've been very popular.

Adelaide: Oh I don't know about that, but I was involved.

Jim: When you hear that music does it take you back?

Adelaide: Oh we had the best music in the world, we really did and I don't know it sort of, if you wanted to know what we were like listen to that music because that's what we were like it really programmed all of us, it was wonderful.

Jim: When you say it programmed all of you, what do you mean?

Adelaide: Well it was, it was romantic music and it was, it was sweet, it was moral, it was . . . oh beyond that I can't really exactly explain it, but it was, it was nice to listen to and yet it was lively. Not all of it was, there was a lot of very romantic songs and I think the fact that in modern movies they're using a lot of that old music still, it kind of tells you something.

Jim: There's been so much attention paid to the World War II generation and there is this idea that it was this sort of golden era. I wonder sometimes if that's completely fair. You talked about the end of the depression having sort of a golden feel to it, but I think sometimes people tend to paint the whole war experience with a golden brush. Was it that wonderful, I mean is that fair to those days, to those memories you think?

Adelaide: You know, having grown up in that, it's hard for me to really say what it would be like growing up during another time, but yes, yes I guess so. There were certainly people who were phony just like there are now and that kind of thing and yet there was, there were a tremendous number of people who were, oh I don't know just, just real people, caring. And I guess we all had a little more time, things keep getting more and more rushed and it wasn't that way and I think maybe that if there was anything that may be, be it in fact the depression probably caused a certain amount of simplicity for all of us that was a huge benefit. It wasn't a bad time to grow up.

Jim: People are very nostalgic about those days, why do you think that is?

Adelaide: Well you think about it, there aren't very many generations that first go through a depression and then a big war and we were all very involved in the war, it, it was entirely different than anything that's happened since because we were all really, you know, living it with the soldiers. I think maybe just well . . . that and the music. I think the music had a great deal to do with it, but the music had to come from somewhere so it's a chicken and egg sort of thing. I don't know, that's a hard one to pin and I was kind of surprised the first time that Brokaw came out with it being The Greatest Generation because I always thought so because it was my generation. But you know, I can see that, that younger people would feel that same way about their own. So maybe that isn't fair. Maybe it isn't fair at all. The one thing I do think though, I think that the value system during those years was absolutely at its peak and I think it's been declining every since.

Jim: In what sense?

Adelaide: In what sense? Oh in just what's important to people, what matters. I'm not talking about religion, but that too. It seems like a lot of people have gotten away from thinking that there's anything bigger than themselves, I suppose, that would be what I would have to say that during that period of time there was this very strong sense of values and, and it came from our parents and then was just repeated and ground in with our teachers, but that's probably not quite the way it is now I don't believe.

Jim: You talked about some of the fun things, with the guys that were going off to war. I'm trying to imagine what it was like to know that, well, some of these guys didn't come back and some of these were kids you went to school with.

Adelaide: Oh we certainly did have that, in fact I was, I was in love with a, a Bombardier who was killed in a mission and that was very difficult, that took a while for me. I think I was probably 17 when that happened and it, you know it made me grow up a little. It was hard. I mean when you're that age, if you've known death at all its been with a grandparent or something like that and I hadn't even had a grandparent that had died so they were all living, well all except one who had died before I was born. So you see what I'm saying.

Jim: And now this was something that was sort of all around. I mean, you'd see these people get the telegrams and you'd see this.

Adelaide: Yeah it was, it was . . . it was dramatic and painful.

Jim: I've heard about these little flags that they used to put in the windows.

Adelaide: Everyone that had a service person in the war had a flag in their window, a special flag, we all flew flags, but if you had a son that was fighting in the war you had a special flag.

Jim: How did you get your news about the war when it was going on?

Adelaide: Well mostly the radio and the newspaper, of course there wasn't any television back in the dark ages.

Jim: You talk came up through the depression and then the war and you talked about that sort of exhilaration and that feeling of relief when the war was over. And in some ways that was the end of a long line of hard years for a lot of people wasn't it?

Adelaide: I think it was. I think it was hard, but here again I think people kind of rose to the occasion. That's what we had to do and life wasn't meant to be easy and nobody thought they were going to have a free ride. It was kind of the philosophy at the time.

Jim: Did you feel plugged into the, the national war effort living in Idaho? Did it feel like Idaho was as much a part of this as anybody else was?

Adelaide: Well you know Idaho was, is, kind of remote. It isn't as much anymore as it was then, but, we maybe got our news a little later and that sort of thing. We were isolated to a degree, there's no question about that. In fact, the whole west was, in a sense, and I think probably people on the Eastern Seaboard were kept better informed about day to day things. But of course there wasn't anything like television so you could get a vision of the battle.

Jim: Maybe that was good?

Adelaide: I think maybe it was. I think maybe so, I don't know that's, that's a good question. You'd think that would make people live it more, seeing it on television. But we certainly had a total commitment to what was going on.

Jim: Did you have things like Victory Gardens and all that kind of stuff?

Adelaide: Oh my yes! We had rationing and we had victory gardens, I kind of forgot about all of that. But we did, we grew vegetables. And there women who knitted sweaters for the boys overseas. There were a number of things that were rationed and rubber was one of them. So tires were few. You had to have a real good reason, like be a doctor, to have access to tires. And also gasoline, gasoline and tires and coffee and sugar. You had ration stamps. You could only have your share of all of that, but . . . I don't know . . . it was just the way it was.

Jim: You spoke earlier about how there was a great feeling of patriotism. How did people feel about these guys when they would come back? What was that like when they would come back and they were done with their service?

Adelaide: Oh they were all heroes every last one of them. There were huge parades and national parades you know like in New York and in Boise. They were honored, they were highly honored and I think they all felt really good about having served. There was a number of, well, two of my friends who were in a German prison camp and lived to tell about it, which was good. And then a couple of older fellows that went out with Morrison-Knudsen that were friends that were in the Japanese prison camp. And in fact, one of my husband's cousins was in the Japanese prison camp and they didn't fare as well. They probably lost years off their life expectancy because of it. Terrible time it was awful. It was, it was a little different I, I don't know, I don't think that the conditions in Germany were good, but, they weren't that bad. They didn't seem to be anyway. I mean I remember one of the fellows that was in a German prison camp made a bracelet for me out of coins, German coins. And he'd just fasten them, he'd drilled holes and fastened the coins together with little wires and I was just so thrilled with that.

Jim: What do you remember about the war wrapping up?

Adelaide: It was a big day of rejoicing. I can remember where I was and what we did and it was really funny everybody was downtown and we were all, we were all just, you know, running around in the street having a wonderful time and shouting and waving the flag. And a group of us girls decided we would go down the fire pole at the fire station, which used to be right downtown and so we did, and they let us.

Jim: How do you tell people what it felt like when that happened?

Adelaide: Well it's just such a relief, I mean when you realized that it was over, because it was oppressive. I mean that's probably why the music meant so much because there was always this concern about would somebody dying and some of them did.

Jim: And it sounds like there was a part of you guys that sort of had that patriotic feeling that we're doing this for the right reasons. But there had to be a lot of fear and worry beneath that.

Adelaide: Oh there definitely was and yet maybe it got buried a little bit in the need to be there to protect the country and this very, very strong feeling of patriotism that we all grew up with and the young men that went and fought in the war had.

Jim: I'm sure that you if you talk to younger kids today they might say, "What was it like?" What do you tell 'em? How do you sum it up to people what that was like?

Adelaide: Wow, that's a hard thing to sum up. It's kind of elusive to start with. It's not an easy thing to define. Oh dear, I'm a little at a loss to, to really say. It was, it was not a horrible time, it was, it was difficult and it was . . . there was some sadness, but there was also a whole lot of fun. And . . . I don't know it was . . . it was an interesting, interesting thing that it seems to have stood out as a different time.

Jim: Are there things you miss?

Adelaide: Things I miss. Not really, not really. I miss people, I think we all do. You'll lose your parents, you'll miss them. But as far as you can . . . you can make your life whatever you want it to be and if you want to live it in a way that things that you treasured as a child you actually can do that to some degree. So I guess not. It's a matter of progression and, and growing and hopefully becoming more spiritual.

Jim: When I started working on this project, it was important to me not just to focus on the war itself. I didn't want to just look at what was going on overseas in the war. Do you think its important to remember what people went through back here at home, I mean the Homefront, if you will?

Adelaide: Yes I think so. I think it's unique in that it was the last war that really involved the citizens. We haven't had one since that has. I mean the wars go on and we just seem to just live our lives and it's different, it's really different. Yes, I think probably it is important.

Interviewed by Jim Peck, producer of The Idaho Homefront: Of Camps and Combat

Funding provided in part by the generous support of WETA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.