I remember sweet summer nights, too, with the split windshield tilted open, side windows down, the wind in my hair, and pretty girls with beguiling names like Lynn Lacy, Marcy Cherry, Virginia Valentine.
As the dog days of August slipped by, German armies stood poised on the borders of Poland, awaiting Hitler’s signal for a full-scale invasion—an unbelievable escalation in the Fuehrer’s geopolitics. It was a time of frantic efforts by Poland, Britain and France for a settlement. A time of tense, continuing negotiation.
Totally defiant, Hitler ridiculed a personal appeal for peace from FDR and scorned dead-serious warnings from the British and the French against further aggression. The lines were drawn.
Scrambling eleventh-hour moves of the weary and exhausted diplomats proved to be completely futile.
At daybreak on September 1, 1939, German armies poured across the Polish frontier. Overhead, wave after wave of Stuka bombers attacked Polish military installations and open cities alike.
The unthinkable had become reality.
Hitler had plunged Europe into a six-year war that was to grow into the bloodiest conflict ever.
World War II had begun.
In the beginning, we all wondered—what will the war in Europe mean to us here? How can we keep out of it? That was an interminable question everybody seemed to be asking.
Coming out of the Great Depression, the mood of the country in 1939 was isolationist. “Let’s stay out of any damned foreign entanglements.” Along with most of my generation at that time, I shared such sentiments.
We carried on with our lives. But we would often turn to the radio for the latest bulletins from Europe.
I spent most of the year at Meier & Frank’s—in advertising production and the credit authorization department. At times, the job was a deadly bore. But it paid enough for me to contribute to my room and board, get out on the town now and then, and still salt away some savings. The job offered a few perks, too. For one, M&F heir Jack Meier, manager of the sports department, gave me a one-year guest pass to the Multnomah Athletic Club, perched on a hillside above Multnomah Stadium. That pass was worth more than a few weekly push-ups, On the back balcony, we had a good view of the Multnomah Kennel Club dog races—and an occasional Pac-10 football game.