“America was making arms and food for the British, but at home 130 million people were living their own lives, doing American things: reading the football scores, thinking of turning in the old automobile for a “snazzy” new model, going fishing, taking it easy.” – Alistair Cooke
Before 1941, the Nelson children lived a pretty typical small town American life. They played sports in High School, fished, went duck hunting, watched movies, went bowling and worked to help support themselves and the family.
Cliff was the oldest of the Nelson children, born June 8th, 1911. Cliff helped out at the railroad and lived with his parents in Appleton until he was drafted into the Army in early 1942.
My grandmother Milly was born March 28th, 1913. By 1941, Milly was married to Lorne S. Ward and had a daughter Susan (my mother). Milly was the teacher at a one room school house in Appleton, MN and lived with Nellie and Magnus while Lorne was at war.
Vern, better known to his family as “Beany”, was born October 11, 1915. He graduated from Appleton High School in 1933, then went to work for Montgomery Ward & Co in St. Paul from 1935 to 1941. On July 18th, 1941 Beany enlisted in the Army.
Jerome or “Jerry” was the youngest child, born May 27, 1918. Jerry had poor health and even though he tried numerous times, was unable to pass the medical examination to join the Army like his brothers. This of course made his mother Nellie happy but Jerry continued to search for a way to do his part and serve his country.
The majority of the family letters are written home to Jerry as he was the one person that managed to save these correspondances for so many years and then pass them down to his children. Sadly my grandmother burned most of her letters from my grandfather as she couldn’t bear to think about the war ever again. My mother recently found some of his early letters however and these are now included.