War on Their Minds
1945   Gertrude "Trudy" Kendall
Age in 1941: 25

Interview Team: Tiffany Swift, Matt Becker

This is Tiffany Swift. I am here with my partner, Matt Becker, and we are interviewing Ms. Trudy Kendall in the tomb room at Wayland High School. The date is May 16, 2001.

Q: What is you name?

Miss Kendall: My name is Gertrude Kendall, Gertrude F. for Francis.

Q: What was your approximate age in 1941?

Miss Kendall: Well, let's see. I was born in 1916, so I must have been 25 years old.

Q: What is your place of birth and where were you raised?

Miss Kendall:I was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, in the country. My daddy was a carpenter, but then his business went out, and so we moved to Somerville where he found a job. And then when I was in high school, we had to move to Arlington because my daddy got a job up there.

Q: To what extent were you aware of the happenings in Japan, Italy, and Germany during the 1930's?

Miss Kendall: Not an awful lot, but you would hear it. We had a radio which we could keep in touch with. So we would hear about it every now and then.

Q: Explain how you first became aware of the dangers in Europe and Asia.

Miss Kendall: I think it was the radio. I don't think we had a TV even then. I really don't.

Q: What was your reaction to the war in Europe?

Miss Kendall: Oh my God, it was terrible. They were showing pictures of it. We used to go to the cinema quite a bit and they would show short newsreels of what was going before the movie started. It seemed like such a tragic happening and it was a really terrible thing for people to get involved in.

Q: Do you recall President Roosevelt's fireside chats? If so, how did they impact you?

Miss Kendall: I guess I liked listening to them. He was the President after all, and he was a good President. I really don't remember listening to them all that well. But I thought he was a good President and I thought he tried. I know I certainly trusted in him and in his decision-making.

Q: What are your remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Miss Kendall: It was terrible to see that. I just remember a lot of people coming to my house, and it was just awful to hear about.

Q: What were your feelings about American involvement in the war after Pearl Harbor?

Miss Kendall: It was important for us to go and see that it was taken care of. I thought we had to do something.

Q: Did these feelings change at all during or after the war?

Miss Kendall: No, I just hoped it would be over so my brother wouldn't have to go.

Q: Do you remember the mood of the country during wartime? What was it like?

Miss Kendall: Oh yeah, yeah. We got a paper and you could read about it there.

Q: How were your basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter affected by the war?

Miss Kendall: It was hard at times, but my brother Lawrence was a meat cutter. He could bring us home meat when you normally would never have it. You know, you had to go with a coupon to get sugar or to get this and to get that. My daddy had died and it was really sort of tough. We had a garden in the backyard of our house.

Q: Did your social life change in any notable way?

Miss Kendall: Well, I didn't have much of a social life. It pretty much consisted of my mother, and the family we had at home. I was always home. I was my mother's girl. I liked to stay at home and read. So my social life didn't really change all that much.

Q: How were you employed during the war?

Miss Kendall: I worked at an Arsenal in Watertown, and later in the New York-New Haven Railroad as a cook in the grill car.

Q: How did you get the job at the Arsenal?

Miss Kendall: I went to Wentworth and took classes to learn how to run a milling machine. But I just volunteered, and I loved doing it. I felt like I was doing my part for the war.

Q: Did your work have anything to do with the war effort directly or indirectly?

Miss Kendall: Well, I worked at a milling machine, and I made the tool that made the gun. I had a long piece of metal, about that thick and that high, and it would come up to me to have a gouge out. Now, the working conditions were not great then. A woman I worked next to wore a mask over her mouth, but my boss didn't tell me I had to wear a mask. And I ended up, after about a year and a half, I ended up with this horrible growth, and I'll have it the rest of my life. I had a wonderful, old fashioned doctor that I went to. He said, "Gertrude, you have a chronic sore throat and you're going to have it for the rest of your life. Take a tablespoon of Caro syrup and you eat it very slowly and take some and put it in warm water." And so that's what I did. And to this day, I always keep a bottle of Caro syrup in my refrigerator if I feel badly.

Q: Did you know anyone personally who went off to war?

Miss Kendall: Well, my brother had been transferred back to the United States just before we got involved. His time was up, he had been over there for three years. He was in the aircraft carrier when peace was declared over there.

Q: What was your attitude toward anyone of draft age who was not serving in the armed forces?

Miss Kendall: I didn't see them. Anyone I knew was working for the war. We wanted to do what we could for America.

Q: Do you recall any wartime dissent?

Miss Kendall: No. I think they would have put them in jail, if anyone had said anything about the war. Because we were so gung-ho; we weren't going to let Hitler come over here!

Q: What was your attitude toward the Japanese or Germans on a personal level? Did you hate them?

Miss Kendall: Kill them! Send our boys over there and kill them all! Because they were the ones who blew up Pearl Harbor. The Japanese were horrible people, they were awful. Those kamikazis, all they wanted to do was kill the people on the ships. They didn't care if they killed themselves. I think of that devil. (Adolph Hitler) He really was a terrible, terrible man. To see what he did to those people there, those beautiful Germans, because the Germans are a fantastic people.

Q: Were you aware of the Japanese-Americans in detention camps?

Miss Kendall: Yes.

Q: Did you feel that this was justified?

Miss Kendall: I didn't think that was right. I really didn't. They came here, to make a living here, and they shouldn't have been [detained.] Because I think they were Americanized by then.

Q: What did you think of President Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Miss Kendall: I didn't think it was right. I thought it was terrible, terrible. All those people that were killed.

Q: Was that the overall feeling, from everyone you knew?

Miss Kendall: I didn't like to talk about it, I thought it was so terrible. Devastated is what it did to Japan.

Q: Did you participate in a welcoming home ceremony after the war?

Miss Kendall: Well, I was working on the New York-New Haven Railroad as a cook in the grill car at the end of the war. And I was in Springfield when peace was declared. I won't ever forget that. All of us from the train were going down the streets singing and yelling, and it was great. And guys coming home from the war were all over the train.

Q: Is there a way you could make us understand what life was like during the war?

Miss Kendall: No, I think you had to be there to live through that, to see it, you know, because it was so terrible.


Miss Kendall describes her job at the Watertown Arsenal. (Quicktime)

American Airlines
Miss Kendall of American Airlines

Miss Kendall (center) and Co-workers