Dear Next Generation: Air Raid Drills and Table Manners

By Dear Next Generation
Dear Next Generation
Dear Next Generation
October 19, 2021 Updated: October 19, 2021

Dear Next Generation,

Air raid drills and table manners! What a blend of “stuff” we had to learn in those unsettled years, 1934 to 1945!

My brother and I lived with a lot of rules. Our Daddy was like other Daddies: He put on a suit and white shirt and tie every morning like all the other Daddies in our wonderful town and went to his job—except he also strapped a snub-nosed .38 revolver to his belt, which would be well concealed under his suit coat. Daddy was a detective for our city’s police department. That probably explains why our rules were especially strict and we had a lot to memorize! Table manners: “Elbows both off the table, sit as straight as we are able to.” Or, “mouths are always free from food when we drink our milk so good.” If we transgressed during supper, we would be asked to stand and recite the appropriate “rule” that we had breached!

We also, as soon as we were able, were tasked with reading our local newspaper sufficiently to choose an article upon which to make a “report” during dinner conversation. When we grew up, my brother and I were avid readers. What a wonderful gift! I joyously take my Epoch Times from the mailbox each week!

Parents were strict disciplinarians during those upside-down years. They felt they had to be! The world, itself, was “upside-down” and they all felt they needed to prepare us for the then-unknown outcome.

A World War II-era poster promotes victory gardens. (Public domain)

We were all united as a family, part of a “neighborhood” of cooperating and helpful friends—sharing what little we had, lending a hand wherever necessary and whenever possible, sharing our “harvest” from backyard “victory gardens,” bounty from neighbors’ fruit trees, yard chores like raking leaves and shoveling snow, and clean-up and fix-up chores. If a neighbor Daddy had gone off to the service, that yard needed care in his absence.

While these lessons seemed somewhat tedious at the time, and my brother and I would grumble quietly, as I look back now I see that those times and circumstances are the foundations of how I live my life now as an 86-year-old widow, alone with my two dogs, still in my “hometown,” and still, somehow, observing the discipline that Mother and Daddy felt obligated to supply. I am grateful for those years, and those lessons I carried into adulthood, which now are comforting to me as I age along the path of my life. I felt confident in my decisions, in my management of my small but orderly life. I still observe the “rules,” even while dining alone at my table!

I also believe that the times in which we lived sort of dictated how it should be—the outcome of the war was unknown, we were not quite certain America would prevail, so we would have to be firm and solid in our beliefs, values, and deep faith in God.

Plowing Boston Common for the Victory Garden program during World War II. (Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

I cannot say we had an abundance of love as far as “hugs and kisses” go, but we were very secure in our belief in our Lord, in our family, our schools, our friends and neighbors—we felt a huge bit of pride as we purchased our 10-cent Savings Stamp each Monday at school, working to fill our little book’s pages until we had enough to purchase a Bond for $18.75! That was an enormous amount of money!

And we, of course, learned the words to all of our Service Songs: “Over hill, over dale, we have hit the dusty trail,” and “Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh,” and “From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.” And we sang strong at school assemblies. I still know all those words, but tears always overtake me when I have an opportunity to sing them, like at Armistice Day remembrances (I think it is called Veterans’ Day now!) at my local VFW post.

Growing up during those stress-filled times would not have been my choice for my own two children, years later, but it was the straw I drew and I lived it out. I feel proud of those times and feel a part of a really strong generation of Americans living yet today in a tumultuous world I, at times, surely do not understand!

I believe the times in which we grew up, the way our parents guided us into young adulthood, the values and faith they taught us during tumultuous years—those lessons are still vivid in my memory, and I would not change or replace one moment. We both grew up knowing, very well, the meaning of God Bless America!

With love and faith in those young Americans who carry the torch onward!

Sunny McComber, Nebraska


Hello Next Generation,

The advice I would give you is simple. Before you leave your house for school or work in the morning, do one simple thing: Make your bed!

Seriously, make your bed before you go. No matter what type of day you have, you will always come home to a bed that is made, and it will brighten your day.

Because how bad could it be? The bed is made!

Bill Graham, New York


General Douglas MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur rides in an open car and waves to well-wishers on April 20, 1951. (Fotosearch/Getty Images)

Dear Next Generation,

“A short saying oft contains much wisdom.” This precious little saying comes from a fortune cookie, and is a perfect example of the impactful sayings that have guided and shaped my life. My kids have grown up hearing these sayings and others. I urge you to apply these truths and see what happens.

1. “Start. The rest is easy.” Wisdom from Mr. George Jenkins, founder of Publix Super Markets. You will accomplish nothing unless you start.

2. There are three types of people:

a. Those who make things happen.

b. Those who watch what happens.

c. Those who wonder what happened.

3. “If you can build a fire in a person, you will never have to build a fire under that person.” Wisdom from a builder of a few fires under and many, many fires in his men, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

4. From another fortune cookie: “A man may fail many times, but he is not a failure until he gives up.” Examples of those who had multiple failures prior to success include Thomas A. Edison, Henry Ford, Dr. Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, and millions of other little-known success stories.

My advice to the younger generation is: In your personal, social, career, and spiritual life, constantly evaluate your goals and their relative importance and then start. Start making things happen. Read and listen to motivational writers and speakers. Choose your mentors who will build that fire within you. Be that mentor to those who need you. Treat your so-called failures as learning experiences on your way to your goal.

Douglas MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur on Aug. 24, 1945. (Fotosearch/Getty Images).

Do not get hung up on “changing the whole world”; you won’t, but you can certainly change the world a little for everyone you come in contact with. We change the world for the better, one person at a time. Character and integrity, along with compassion, patience, respect, courtesy, and love, will influence and uplift even the most ornery.

Remember, windshields are approximately 12 to 14 square feet, while rearview mirrors are approximately 30 square inches. Although it is important to glance at your rearview mirror at critical times, your dangers, your goals, and your future are in front of you.

So long and keep singing “Happy Trails.”

Keith A. Marr, Florida


What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.

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