Armament wagons

Friday, May 26, 2017

It was the 1940s and America was at war. Nine-year-old Norma Vaught pulled her rusty brown wagon through her neighborhood. As the last of six children, her wagon had been passed down to her—but the important thing was that it worked, for Norma had an important job.

Her older sister, Vivian, had joined the Army and as a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) traveled with a convoy known as the “Shot from the Sky Show.” Vivian’s husband Raymond Curtis Patterson was sent overseas to fight the Axis.

Vivian’s “Shot from the Sky Show” went from place to place setting up tents for folks to see what husbands, sons, brothers and neighbors were up against. Displaying recovered equipment and salvaged plane pieces that had been shot down by U.S. troops proved that the enemy did not have antiquated armament from World War I, but rather state of the art weapons and planes. The purpose of the show was to encourage everyone to get involved with the war effort and this was not lost on Marshall residents.

Her father, Clifford, one of the town’s first firefighters, read about the war in the daily paper, and military news was conversation of the day. The radio gave updates and Saturday matinee news reels of the war kept audiences riveted. The whole community was involved; women wrapped bandages, ladies’ clubs sewed and everyone did something to help.

Norma’s job was to pull her wagon through the neighborhood and collect metal for weapons. As a war-time child, Norma thought it normal to be dismissed early from school on Mondays. Children of all ages, if they had a wagon, sought scrap metal. Parents walked with little ones up to the courthouse, and Norma with wagon in-tow joined the walk. They emptied the metal from their wagons onto the courthouse lawn, where it was picked up by armament production staff.

Norma knew metal meant good weapons for U.S. servicemen because Vivian said it would be used for making M1 rifles and other armaments. “Armament”—the big word played through her mind and Norma wondered if her brother-in-law, Raymond, would get a good rifle as the sound of her wagon’s squeaky wheels followed her home.

Author Melanie Dees Campbell is a member of the Marshall Writers’ Guild and the Marshall Ministerial Alliance. This story appeared in the Marshall Writers’ Guild book, “The Forties” (2011).