Werdins share World War II memories of Kaneville

By on May 29, 2009

by Susan O’Neill
On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 7, 1941, Kaneville resident Lynette Werdin was helping with lunch dishes and listening to music on the radio.

“The music stopped and said that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor,” she said. “Where’s Pearl Harbor, we wondered.”

Werdin and her husband Dave told the audience gathered for the Memorial Day services at the Community Center on Monday what it was like to live in Kaneville during World War II.

“It was all really scary,” she said. “We had been feeling secure with the Atlantic Ocean between us and the war. We didn’t feel threatened until Dec. 7.”

When the bombing of Pearl Harbor took place in 1941, Hawaii was not yet a state. For all four years of the war, Werdin said she was a teenager in high school. She was about to get a geography lesson every day as a result of the war.

Werdin’s grandmother lived with them, and she would listen to news of the war on the radio every night. In the morning, she would show the rest of the family all the places on the map where the war had taken place the night before.

There were places Werdin had never heard of before, such as the Solomon Islands, the Coral Sea and Midway, Okinawa and New Guinea. Werdin still has the maps, with all the arrows and other markings on them.

“There was such rotten news every day,” Werdin said.

She recalled when rationing began in Kaneville, with items such as dairy products and cheese, meat, coffee, sugar and chocolate. She said her mother used to save little bits of sugar to make birthday cakes for her and her siblings. They were only allowed one pair of leather shoes a year.

Gasoline and tires were the worst things, she said. There were ration cards and stamps. They were limited to just a few gallons a week. As a teenager, she was disappointed when they didn’t have enough gas to get to Sandwich to go roller skating.

With four years during which no tires were made, she said they would often see people on the side of the road fixing flat tires.

Women came out of the kitchens, put on their hard hats and went to work in the war plants. At 16 years old, Lynette went to work on Saturdays and Sundays at Burgess-Norton Manufacturing Company in Geneva. She made 35 cents an hour, $3 for an eight-hour day.

Kaneville residents who were not working would go to Troxel every day and watch for airplanes. They were the air patrol, and protected Chicago from air strikes.

Werdin said that for all four years, no one knew if the United States would win the war. The rumor was that if Japan and Germany won, they would split the U.S. down the middle at the Mississippi River. Japan would take one side and Germany the other.

“We were so relieved when we got word that the war was over,” she said.

Dave Werdin’s job started with the end of the war. Dave spent a year in Japan after the war, helping to rebuild the cities that had been destroyed there.

“Everyone was so sick of killing and destroying,” he said. “World War I taught us a lesson. It bred hatred and this gave us Hitler. The troops weren’t done when the war was over. There was a peace to win.”

PHOTO: A World War II cannon with replica shells was decorated with flowers for the Memorial Service at the Kanevile Cementery on Monday in honor of the day’s events. Photo by Susan O’Neill