Remembering
World War II

D.C. to Boston in a Barber Chair???

... A personal look at war from the hockey rink.

by Russ Priestley

This article is reprinted in the May 2010 issue of the Melrose Mirror. The original was published in November 1998.

World War II, yah, maybe we old timers should pass along some information about those times ... especially since I read recently where one school kid saw a reference to it in Gothic type and termed it "World War Eleven". All schools require the teaching of U.S. History, but what are they teaching? I suppose George Washington, Betsy Ross and all that good stuff. Some areas of this country don't teach about the Civil War ... as if it never happened, but somehow they all learn to hate those damn Yankees ... and I don't mean the baseball team.

On the home front, there were shortages of gasoline, sugar and meat. These were doled out by rationing and by the issuing of ration stamps to everyone. There were some blackouts at the sound of a practice air raid siren. Nationwide, there were dim-outs. The top half of automobile headlights were painted black. This was important, especially on the East coast where the fear of German submarines was a genuine concern. New automobiles were non-existent as the manufacturers switched to producing jeeps, tanks and army trucks. Some produced munitions. As a result, all forms of transportation were crowded. Railroads put all available equipment into service, despite how old it was.

Before being called to active duty, I experienced one humorous example. I was playing hockey for the Boston Olympics in the Eastern League. After one game, we boarded a train about midnight in Washington, D.C. to head for home. All of the seats were occupied, but we found an antique part of the train that had a room for us. In the center was a barber chair which we took turns sitting in for the eight hour trip back to Boston.

Many passengers in the regular coaches had to stand for the whole trip. Passengers were considerate and offered their seats to anyone in military uniform, or to anyone who may have had more need for a seat.

November 24, 1998


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