My Brief Career As A Waker-upper
World War II was hard on families. All of the young able-bodied men went into the service. In our little town of 5,000 people every block was affected. There were little flag-like things you could hang in your living room window that indicated you had someone in the service. These “flags” were rectangular and just guessing, I’d say they were about 6″ x 12‘’ and were white with a red border and had a blue star in the center. There would be a blue star for every person from your family that was in the service. If the person was killed, the blue star would be covered with a gold star. I remember riding my bike down the street and seeing one flag after another in the living room windows.
Two doors south of us lived Harold and Martha “Mattie” Guest. We called them Uncle Harold and Aunt Mattie though we weren’t really related. Mattie was the sister of my great aunt, Rachel Peebler. Harold and Mattie had a flag in the window with 3 stars in it. Their oldest son, Ed, was in the Army and fighting in Europe. As I recall, he was over there for 2 or 3 years before he got to come home on furlough. The middle son, Bill, was in the Navy and I believe he served in the South Pacific. I think the youngest son, Jack, was in the Navy also but I’m not sure. The Guests had 2 daughters who had loved ones in the war. Jean, the oldest, was waiting for Wayne Porter and I’m not sure if they married before, during, or after the war. Mattie and Harold’s other daughter, Jane, was waiting for Charlie Fennell and I think they married after the war. As you can see, the Guest family was putting a lot on the line for the war effort.
Young men who were 17 could enlist in the service with their parents’ permission. In late 1945 and 1946, the high schools were full of young men that had skipped their senior year and joined the service. Now, these returning veterans wanted to earn their high school diploma and resume their lives. It wasn’t easy for them to return to such a mundane environment after life in the military and in many cases, in combat.
The war was over and I was a 9 year old when Mom told me to go over and talk to Harold and Mattie because they might have a job for me. I went to their house and they re-affirmed what I knew about Jack being home from the service and going back to school to get his degree. They were happy that he had gone back to school but said that he was having trouble because he was bored. Jack was out every night drinking beer with his friends or chasing girls and staying out late. As a result, he was late to school every day and was in trouble for it. They proposed that I become Jack’s official “waker-upper” and get him up for school every day. Mattie and Harold both had to leave early for work but if Jack could sleep in until 7:30, he could still make it to school on time. They warned me that I couldn’t just wake him and leave for he would say he was getting up but would go back to sleep. I was supposed to hang around until he was on his feet. For my services, I believe they agreed to pay me a quarter per week.
It turned out that getting Jack out of bed was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I would talk and talk and sometimes pull the covers back but he still tried to ignore me. After I got his eyes open once, I would go out and sit on the front porch for a few minutes before checking on him. Jack was a really nice guy and I liked him a lot but when I was trying to wake him I stayed out of reach. He was a fair-sized man and I was just a 9 year old twerp.
I don’t remember how long I was an official “waker-upper”. I don’t know if Jack got in the habit of waking up or if his folks just gave up.
August 15, 2015