World War II

Irish Moss for the War 

... Kids collecting Irish moss for the war effort

Len Dalton

In 1942 Eddy Cook and I were 12 years old. Like most people in Melrose, we were gung ho patriots. We bought all the war stamps and war bonds we could out of paper route earnings, lawn mowing and snow shoveling. I had 2 magazine routes and an egg route so my equity was getting to be pretty good and having worked hard for it, I was also getting to be a real tightwad!

Eddy spent a lot of time in summer at Scituate, Massachusetts where his father owned a cottage out near the lighthouse. The "beach" was a disaster of huge boulders over which Eddie and I wandered barefoot at all times. Soon our feet were tough so that walking on the rocks was not uncomfortable.

Some boy who lived in Scituate told us that we could make money gathering Irish moss among the boulders at low tide. Money was the operative word and in no time Eddy and I were out among automobile-sized rocks picking the treasured Irish moss. Rumor was that it was converted to explosives. We didn't care what they did with it; we got 2 cents a pound unbleached. Bleached got 10 cents a pound, but we had no time or space for laying the stuff out in the sun. Besides, somebody might swipe it!

There was a time when the idea of emerging myself among seawater and heavy growths of seaweed was revolting and not what one did, but when money spoke all that was ignored and Eddy and I found ourselves groping under the seaweed and boulders in the interest of capitaliism. It is interesting that kids can become so familiar with an environment of seaweed that they are not intimidated by wandering around in it.

We pooled our moss and split the proceeds. We eventually split about $100 which was an enormous quantity of Irish moss and did our bit as kids for the war effort.

January 7, 2000

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