The year is 1941. Pearl Harbor has been bombed and the nation will soon be at war. The War Department will take over Arlington Hall and military personnel and civilians will flood the county to begin work on the war effort. Arlington citizens began to roll up their sleeves and do their part on the WWII Homefront.
There was a surge of patriotic pride in Arlington. Posters urging support for the war effort started appearing in stores and schools. Families with sons in the military hung rectangular emblems with blue stars on their windows. The United States postal service created an American Eagle Victory stamp which was used for postings throughout the war.
Arlingtonians showed great generosity during WWII. War bond drives raised money for the war. Children could purchase war stamps at school. These stamps were pasted in a book and once the book was filled, the children could exchange it for a war bond. In addition to money, Arlingtonians donated needed supplies such as scrap metal, tin foil, and cooking fats. In most homes a tin foil ball was created to add to as tin foil was collected.
Arlingtonians sacrificed during WWII. They rationed items such as sugar, coffee, and meat so that more supplies could go to the soldiers. They ate SPAM when meat was scarce and spread rumors that the American bomber pilots promised to bomb the SPAM factories after the war. Citizens also limited their evening activities due to black-out drills. They put black-out shades on their windows and tried to eliminate light at night to make sure they weren’t targets for bombing. Citizens served as air wardens to walk through Arlington streets to make sure no light was evident during these drills. Most traffic even stopped during these drills to headlights would not be visible.
Arlingtonians looked out for their neighbors. Due to the influx of civilians and military personnel, housing was scarce. Families often had to share apartments and even in some cases, beds. They grew victory gardens and shared their food with their neighbors. Local farmers allowed apartment dwellers to grow victory garden on their extra farmland.
Arlingtonians had no idea when the war would be over. Many citizens had a morning and evening newspaper delivered so they could get the latest news. They recognized that they would be supporting the war effort “for the duration” and collectively did their part to ensure a victory.
Today the COVID-19 crisis has changed life in communities across the United States. Due to its proximity to the nation’s capital, Arlington has been directly impacted by this crisis and has rallied as a community to address the challenges the quarantine has created. Over the past few weeks there have been amazing stories of the Arlington community coming together to support each other “for the duration” of this crisis. A small sampling of the caring Arlington community includes:
• Social media sites set up to connect to people virtually and share resources
• A variety of groups preparing bags of foods to send to families in need
• Various Arlingtonians, young and old creating face masks, ear guards, and headbands for medical staff and others
• Arlington churches going online to provide virtual services
• Local food pantries receiving lots of food to support those who need support
• Local businesses delivering supplies such as medicine to keep people at home
• Arlingtonians offering free online classes and entertainment
• Arlington County government hosting a drive-through donation site to collect essential supplies for redistribution across the county
• Local businesses who are struggling continuing to coordinate efforts and provide support to the medical community and families in need
• Arlingtonians checking on neighbors and doing chores for elderly neighbors to keep them home
Clearly the caring Arlington community once again demonstrates that they will do their part in victory over this virus. We salute Arlingtonians past and present for their community spirit.
[This article was written Cathy Bonneville Hix, AHS President, April 2020.]