Interview With Mary E. Hanke

From the interview with Mary Elizabeth Hanke of Redmond, WA conducted by Cynthia Walker at the Fort Worden History Center on June 29,2002. Mrs. Hanke is the daughter of Lt. Col. George Frederick Newman (1911-1975) who was stationed at Fort Worden during World War II. The family lived in Quarters Nine West on Officers Row. Here she describes a bit of the social interaction at the post:

“There was a bowling alley. The commanding officer’s (Brigadier General James H. Cunningham) wife was an interesting woman who really took advantage of being the General’s wife, because whatever the General’s wife wanted to do, then all the other wives had to do. If she wanted to play bridge, they all got together and played bridge. If she wanted to bowl, they all had to bowl.

We (Mary Elizabeth and her younger brother) would get taken along to the bowling. It was in the summertime, and I will never forget, when she set a ball down to roll, it felt like it was going to be a week and a half before it got to the pins. It never went off course, it went where she was throwing, but it was just going ‘tu duh, tu duh, tu duh,’ all the way down the lane. My brother and I used to kid about it because we could tell when the General’s wife was bowling because there was this slow ball going down there.

She was a pretty good bowler. She just didn’t have any force to it. It’s amazing that it did knock anything down.

The Brigadier General was a short man, not very tall. My dad was six-four, weighed 220 pounds; and it wasn’t the happiest relationship between the two. I think he didn’t like it that my dad was so tall. I don’t know what else it could have been, but there were some interesting times between the two of them.”

When asked about other memories of the Fort, she responded:
“”The blimp hangar, actually the balloon hangar, because there were weather balloons, not actually something you could fly in. When they were gone, my dad and my brother liked to fly airplanes there. The kind that you would wrap, wind and wind rubber bands to get the power. They would fly them in there, there was all kinds of space for the planes to go way up and down and around. In certain kinds of weather, the hangar was so big that a little cloud would form inside the top. It had its own weather.” (The former balloon hangar is now McCurdy Pavilion, a performance venue.)

In response to questions about how the family dealt with wartime shortages, Mrs. Hanke replied:
“Rationing started right away, because of the mobilization for the troops, in fact, it increased. The further the war went, the tighter things got. We each had a ration book, and in each book were little stamps that could be torn out one at a time for different kinds of things. Shoes, coffee, tires,sugar, flour, eggs or butter. There was one that had a picture on it that looks kind of like a cornucopia, that may have been for fruit. I don’t know if we had to have it for fruit, but I do know we had to really take care of our shoes, and you alway got them resoled. You didn’t get to go get new shoes. That’s when they developed the kinds of non-leather materials to use for soles of shoes so that there would be enough leather to make the military’s shoes and boots.

Tires had to last, you had to make gasoline last. In fact it was so slim you really could not take any long trips or anything because there wasn’t enough to do that.

Mother (Margaret Cotton Newman) baked a lot, so the coupons that always disappeared first were the flour and the sugar. …I remember there were times when there wasn’t enough sugar, and to spill anything was just a crime, to waste anything. (Mother) saved balls of string, tied pieces of string one to the next so you got this big ball of string. We turned those in, they were used in some kind of manufacturing.

…That was when margarine came out to take the place of butter. It came to you white and there was a little envelope of coloring. If you preferred to have it yellowed, you had to mix it yourself to make your margarine yellow. It was called oleomargarine, It was hard work to stir that stuff into that thick margarine. My brother and I got the task of coloring the margarine,”

This entry was posted in Military and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.