I was not allowed to talk at six o’clock when the news came on. Dinner at the pull-down table in the breakfast room was a silent affair, but for the radio.
Edward R.Murrow was reporting: Hitler’s crossing this river, that river. Daddy fumed that he wanted to go “over there,” to help our country – but he was too young for WWI, too old for WWII and he and Mommy were saddled with 3 little girls and one on the way. Mommy would say, “Why am I bringing another life into this horrible, hopeless world?”
A recurring ghastly nightmare — me, 5 years old, swinging on the playground at North Beach Elementary – and suddenly Hitler was standing on a giant swing, arcing over the playground, with a uniformed German on each side in identical mustaches and on swings, each one scoo-o-o-oping up little children – me, one of them, disappearing into instant night.
During the day I would march alongside soldiers outside my house on Royal Palm Avenue and in Polo Park (where Nautilus Middle School now stands). The army was occupying Miami Beach hotels, with the streets as their training grounds. One of my first songs was, “Over there, send the word . . . that the Yanks are coming. . . .” Me wondering, who ARE the yanks, anyway?
There were blackouts every night and rationing; my parents were on Civil Air Patrol “birdwatching” from the Roney Plaza hotel tower for German subs off the coast.
In school, I remember wrapping bandages for the war effort and singing, “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder. . . .” There were daily drills and we had to duck under our desks.
Then, on Fox Movietone News, concentration-camp skeletons were being liberated. Then came the great day! I was nine years old, and my whole childhood of memory had been nothing but war. Now that childhood was almost gone – I danced around the radio with my sister singing, “The war is over, the war is over, the war is over!!!!”