Faith (Clark) McClenney

Faith was a high school student during the war at Newport High School, and helped her father with his sawmill and on their family's farm for the duration of the war. She recalls how difficult the rationing system was on their family, and gives an interesting look into what like was like on a farm in the Pend Oreille Valley.

Faith was at home on her family's farm out in very rural Deer Valley. As they had no electricity on their farm, they relied on the battery of their truck to run their radio. The did not know what was going on until later in the evening when they took the battery out the truck to listen to the radio.
We had no electricity, we had battery-powered radio and the way that we heard about December 7, 1941 was that we were outside and we could hear a sawmill whistle blowing and it blew all day and that, we knew that that was a universal distress signal of some type and naturally we thought perhaps it was a fire of some sort. It was later in the evening when we heard what had happened. As I said, we had a battery-powered radio. That's what that meant, was that we went and got the truck batteries, brought 'em into the house, turned on the radio, and this radio had a little tiny, thin aerial wire that went out and was hung up on the tree. [laughs] And we listened to the tinny voice of FDR and his speech.
Being that the Clark family had a farm and a sawmill, they were involved in two aspects of wartime industry. The farm really didn't produce enough to to sell, however it did produce enough so that they did not suffer too terribly from what was being rationed.
The sawmill that her father was small, and as a result did not produce the lumber needed for the large government contracts. What it did provide was the lumber needed by builders in Spokane and the Pend Oreille Valley, as they could not get the lumber needed from the Diamond Match Lumber Company or other large lumber companies.
Well, for my father's sawmill business it was good because the large sawmills had the big military orders, for the camps, and this type of thing and for the local people or even builders in Spokane, he had a lot of business, and was kept busy all the time. We [the entire family] did most of the work because it was almost impossible when we were very small, he did have some hired help, but during the wartime, it was just all of us working together.
Of course gas was a big problem even though my father did get extra gas because he was in agriculture and an essential sawmill business, and it meant that we just had to save everything in order to take any extra trips or anything, it was just impossible. And then I guess it was just everyday life, we just knew we would only get so much sugar, and shoes were rationed, and my mother had to can without a lot of sugar and of course the word that everybody used was, "This is for the duration" or "Once the duration is over things would come back to normal."
While the difficulty of getting gas and sugar was hard for the adults, Faith like many young women had more trouble going without nice shoes:
Well my mother went down to the store, it was called Sauter's and of course the shelves were bare and the clerk, I guess it was Mr. Sauter, said that if he had even shoe boxes, he could have even sold them. That it was so hard to get shoes and we just wore what we had, I being the oldest I didn't have [laughing] I couldn't wear anybody's leftovers. So that probably was and it was just generally the clothes and that type of thing and money was hard too, we weren't that well off.
One of the most unusual things to happen during the war, were the balloon bombs that the Japanese sent to disrupt the common everyday occurances in the United States, by keeping Americans guessing about when or if they were going to invade. The balloon bombs that were sent either had an incendiary device or an anti-personnel bomb that was to either start forest fires or kill a few people to cause panic. Despite these hopes, the bombs were highly ineffective, there were only small fires started, and one instance of 5 people killed in Oregon. As a result, the government kept the bombs a secret until absolutely necessary, and by mere coincidence, Faith and her family saw one of them float over their Deer Valley farm.
Well of course our ranch is in a valley and so we just happened to be looking up towards the hills that go around our ranch, and saw this balloon and it was very obvious it was a balloon, it was not a plane, and we could see it floating across the horizon and we were told that the Japanese had somehow, these balloons would be, would land and cause forest fires, and I'm not sure whether that was true or not, because I had heard other stories about how effective they were but there never any forest fires really.
August 9, 1945 I was up in Victoria, Canada. Well I have Canadian relatives up there and this was sort of my high school graduation present, that I would be able to go up and see them. And the train ride to Seattle was very interesting, because they used the old box cars and old passenger cars and it was just stacked full of people, I mean it was standing room in the aisles and they were so old they had old stoves in the back [laughing] of the passenger cars. But at that time, when we left Seattle, we were not aware that there was anything going to happen, so I was at my aunt's house and during the day why of course we heard all the sirens blowing and my aunt said, "Let's go down toward town," and there were, there were just thousands of people all over the streets and very elated and everything like that. And I can remember a few drunken sailors got a hold of an old bathtub and [laughs] hooked it up to a car and they were going lickety-split down the streets, and everybody was just having a ball. And the next day we went to a concert out at the park, and of course they were singing "Forever England" and all these songs, and it was a very strange feeling to be in a different country for the end of the war.
The screaming headlines, the um all the speeches on the radio, which of course were all very tinny but very dramatic. We heard Churchill, and we heard FDR, and we heard all the other people speaking. I think the most shocking thing, and the thing that really upset me the most was when the papers uh began to show the pictures of the concentration camps, it was just so unbelievable I could not comprehend that people could ever treat anybody else like that.
Well, I think the most well there were probably a couple ones. Getting those pen pals was very interesting! [laughs] And being only fifteen or sixteen I could have great romances with somebody I was never going to meet. [laughing] And then of course the end of the war was such an elating, uplifting moment, and like a lot of people we just naturally thought the next day things would be back to normal and of course it didn't work that way, it just took a lot of time.
I think probably and this is probably what some of the others will probably say is the closeness of people. We were all in it together and there was, and I'm sure that there were people that protested the war, but the papers didn't seem to cover it as much as they do now. And it was a sense we got this big job we want to get rid of these dictators, these armies we're in it together, we're going to get it done. Well, I think probably just adding to this last line was the feeling that everybody felt like they had to do something and even the young boys just looked forward to signing up and doing their bit for the country and I'm sure some of them signed up for the big adventure and that type of thing, but it was that general feeling of togetherness and we're gonna work together and bring peace and have, this is going to be the war to end all wars, and that type of thing.


Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Cornelis