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Examiner
  • Frank Haight: War years were full of adventure for young boys

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  • Recalling thoughts of the good old days always takes Jim Evans back to the Fairmount neighborhood where he grew up during the 1940s and 1950s.
    With many childhood memories etched in his mind, the 75-year-old Independence resident recently penned a journal entitled Life in Inter City (Fairmount) During World War II for a Young Boy.
    Jim felt compelled to share remembrances of this special time in his life with his family to put things in perspective.
    I kind of zeroed in on World War II, he says, and what I was doing at the time.
    A 3-year-old when the United States declared war on Japan and Germany in December 1941, Jim has vivid memories of war-time life in the blue-collar community of Fairmount, where life was wonderful.
    Fairmount later became part of Independence. But when Jim was a child, it was part of the unincorporated area of Jackson County between Independence and Kansas City; its schools were in the Kansas City School District.
    For Jim the youngest of three siblings life mostly revolved around going to Fairmount Elementary School, three blocks north of the family home at 330 N. Cedar St., and attending Mount Washington Baptist Church.
    Attending school was anything but boring during the war years not with students purchasing Victory Stamps and participating in drives to collect newspapers and scrap metal.
    As children, Jim writes, we were encouraged to buy Victory Stamps, and when we accumulated enough, we were given a Victory Bond which could be cashed at any bank when it matured. This was to help finance the war effort and also take money out of circulation to help control inflation.
    Also to assist the war effort, schoolchildren were challenged to collect old newspapers, bundle them up with binder twine and bring them to school at Cedar and Kentucky Road.
    Jim writes: Each class had a particular spot to stack bundles for credit for that room. ... Often after delivering our bundles, our teachers would have names and addresses of people who wanted us to come and pick up their newspapers.
    And the junk yard at Wilson Road and U.S. 24 was the place for students to drop off and sell scrap metal they secured scouring their neighborhoods and other sites around town.
    Jim enjoyed sports and playing such games as shadow tag, hide and seek, and aunty-over. He also like to play thinking games, such as 20 Questions.
    But if he had a choice of playing his favorite game, or playing in the expansive woods north of his house, hed select the latter every time. It was one of his favorite things to do.
    Just beyond the woods were the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. On the bluff above the tracks was a large limestone boulder. There Jim and his friends often sat during the war years watching trains speed past hauling tanks, jeeps and other military equipment.
    Page 2 of 2 - Writes Jim: My brother, Bill, being four years older, would look after me and we would try to walk the rails with our friends. Beyond the tracks was an old road and then the Missouri River and we played a lot there ... throwing rocks in the water.
    Going to the river usually meant the adventurous boys would walk west on the tracks to the Clay Bluffs, as they were called, where there was an easily accessible hand-dug cave for them to play in.
    And in the limestone bluffs, there was a natural cave that Jim and his pals called Jesse James Cave. They pretended it was the hangout of the notorious James gang. Jim says the caves were great places to pretend and play.
    These are my fondest memories, he says of walking the rails, traipsing through the woods, playing along the river and in nearby Rock Creek. I didnt realize at the time that other kids didnt have that opportunity.
    Jim writes he was able to keep up with the war from the weekly newsreels at the Byam Theater on U.S. 24 near Huttig Street. The price of admission was 14 cents.
    I often wondered if my uncles were in any of them. Now when I see them, I realize how much propaganda was in them. Even many of the movies were full of propaganda.
    In addition to the Byam Theater, Jims journal lists some of the following Fairmount businesses:
    Byam Drug Store and one or two other drug stores, two lumber yards, a hardware store, several food markets, three cab companies, a bakery, a seed store, an appliance store, a bank, as well as a couple of restaurants, at least three gas stations, a womans clothing store, a dentist, a doctor, a Chevrolet dealer, two barber shops, a Freestone store, a five and dime store and the Intercity News.
    Noting none of his close relatives were killed or seriously injured in the war, Jim writes: As an 8-year-old boy, I could feel the relief in my family when the war ended, and life became so much better when rationing ended and old and new products became available in the coming years.
    In closing, he writes: But there was a fear after the atomic bomb that the chain reaction would not stop and would turn Earth into a small star and the end of mankind. This fear lasted for 10 to 15 years, but, thank God, it never happened.
    Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.

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