(The phone interview with Orpha Erickson took place on 12 Feb 2017.)
My in-laws married 22 Nov 1941 in Newman Grove, NE (Orpha’s hometown) and moved into an apartment in Detroit, the city where they both had jobs.
Martin worked as an engineer at Chrysler and when America entered the war, the plant was converted to making machines for support of the military. He designed engines and pistons for the P51 Mustang and toward the end of the war, he designed large artillery, which traveled via train flatbeds like the one pictured here. (Orpha has faint recollections about this part of his work.)
Orpha worked for Rolls-Royce as a bookkeeper and secretary. She typed invoices to send material to England. If it was a regular sale, she made 7 copies (remember carbon copies and erasing errors on each page?) and if it was a lend-lease, she made 14 copies. After they had been married for a year or so, she requested vacation time and was told the company didn’t grant vacations, so she resigned.
Returning home from a trip to Canada and Nebraska to see family, Orpha went to work in an office not far from their home on Fenkle Avenue. She remembers one lady named Olga who spoke favorably of Hitler’s plan to create a United States of Europe with him at the helm. Others heard her comments and reported her. Since she was considered a Nazi sympathizer, she was soon taken away, but Orpha never learned of her fate.
After a couple years of marriage, they bought a home on Tracey in Detroit, knowing it had fallen into disrepair, but they felt capable of making it their own. When I asked about their life at home, Orpha talked about ration books, red coupons for canned goods and blue for meat. When Roger was born in April 1945, Martin took care of getting a coupon book in Roger’s name so they had a larger allocation of food. They had a 3-foot wide strip of land between their fence and the alley driveway, so they converted that into a Victory Garden.
The house needed a new roof, so Orpha returned to work as a bookkeeper in the evenings so Martin could watch Roger when he was home from work. Martin also created a second job drafting various projects in their converted attic, now his office at home.
A vague but lasting memory she shared was one winter morning when she asked Martin if he had walked around to the back yard the night before or that morning. He said he hadn’t, so she showed him footprints in the snow that came from the back fence to their bedroom window. She didn’t know if the person was looking to break in, was a peeping tom, or was looking to see if anyone was home to ask for a handout. Being a nervous person, she took care to dress in her closet from then on.
I’m looking forward to gaining more information in future interviews. Do you or your family have stories from the home front during the war?
The P51 Mustang photo from en.Wikipedia.org; WWII large artilery on train flatbed from pinterest.com; carbon paper image from employmentresources.us; and, the WWII ration book from pinterest.com.