Sunday, June 5, 2016

The material artifacts of war linger longer after its mental atmosphere evaporates

I was conceived five years after WWII ended so I have, of course, no direct memories of the war, above all of its unique mental atmosphere.

(I, after all, already knew that 'the good guys won'.)

But my recollections of actual wartime physical artifacts is excellent.

Most of the world of the 1950s was very far from rich enough to casually tear down old buildings, junk old cars or telephone receivers or warships, toss out old children clothes and adults' books.

Other than the food that I ate, a few TV shows that I watched and the grass that I rolled in, virtually everything I could touch or see as a child in the mid 1950s was dated from the war years or earlier.

Since my only window to the greater world in those years before I could read was the TV movies, this applied in spades.

TV and Film were at serious war in those years , a new war, and so the only movies seen on TV were old movies, old war movies particularly.

As a six year old comparing the world around me to the world as seen in inside those war movies, it didn't really seem all that remote.

Yes the 1950s world was, in theory, in full color, even if many of its barely painted building and machinery seemed not - nevertheless 1940s B&W war images smoothly matched the B&W-ness of all of contemporary TV and most newspapers, magazines, books etc.

As a matter of fact, my first memories of seeing the world in strong distinctly coloured tones didn't happen till July 1956.

I can still distinctly recall memories of looking down and out over a sparkling strong blue ocean and vivid green cow fields and admiring the intense contrasts, on that particularly beautiful summer's day, from the steps of our Seaforth home.

That is almost three years after my first visual memories !

My father being in the Navy and we living in communities with the naval base the main employer, we couldn't help but see lots of the overt military side of WWII all around us.

Some admittedly had been quickly sold at low prices, as scrap, post 1945 but almost as quickly hastily bought back, as high prices, as the Cold War opened up.

 I do recall a particular family car ride in 1957, taken with my family, all the way from placid Denmead in rural middle Hampshire County right down to the waterfront of Portsmouth UK and seeing (bombed out) areas of rubble, even then, 12 years after the Blitz stopped.

Saw them, as if for the first time (I had lived in Portsmouth in 1953 when there were more bombed out areas), only because my mother remarked to my father about them as bombed out areas.

That bomb rubble, combined with me seeing men with horribly plastic frozen faces from war burns and being with my dad when he picked up and talked to hitchhiking veterans from sunken ships, was an even closer taste of WWII.

If I can remember this much, I can only imagine that 1950s children memories were much much stronger for kids in Europe and South East Asia, places where the war had been fought its hardest.......

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