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West Seattle to Vashon 1944

Paul Billingsley on duty at Cove.  Photo courtesy Vashon Heritage Museum
Paul Billingsley on duty at Cove. Photo courtesy Vashon Heritage Museum

All the windows in our house were covered with black cloth to stop any light from coming through.  We lived in West Seattle before moving to Vashon in 1944.  Grandma Ada was a Mattson and they had been at Portage since 1892.  
We were in a blackout to prevent enemy bombers from seeing us.  Dad was an air raid warden and wore an armband and a white helmet with a red, white and blue insignia.  His job was to go around to all the neighbors to insure that their black-out curtains were pulled and that he could see no light from their windows.  

Mom told us:  “If you see any weather balloons up in the sky, come in and tell me right away.”  What she was really referring to were incendiary balloons that had been launched from submarines off the west coast and she was probably just protecting us from the war.  In fact, one or more of these things started a forest fire on the Olympic Peninsula.
I was four years old and dreamed that I saw a plane flying down our street shooting its guns.  I wasn’t supposed to be peeking through the blinds and fell asleep doing so.  When I woke up to the siren telling us that the air raid drill was over, I grabbed my little American flag and started running around in circles yelling “Air raid, air raid.”  The floors were hardwood and slippery, the flag was on a little stick with a pointed gold colored tip.  When I slipped and fell, I had the flag-stick in my mouth and rammed it clear down my throat.

The accident caused tonsillitis and I was kept in bed for days, recovering.  Mom separated my dishes and washed and dried them on a different part of the counter, to insure that my brother and sister wouldn’t catch what I had.  Then I had to go to the hospital to have my tonsils taken out.  Mom dressed me up in my best blue sailor coat and hat and off we went.  They told us that there would be an ice cream treat after the operation and that it wouldn’t hurt.  Then the nurse came at me with a mask in her hand and that is all I remember. When I woke up, my throat hurt so bad that I didn’t want the ice cream.  

It was fall in West Seattle and our little apple tree by the alley only had one apple.  I stared out the window , watching it ripen every day.     In bed after the operation, I counted the days to when I could eat my precious apple.  Vina Leahy lived down the alley from us, we were about the same age when she decided to swipe my only apple from the tree.  I never forgave her.

 We moved to Burton shortly after that, where Mrs. Norin ran a kindergarten and we had to lay our heads down on our desks after our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sleep.  Mrs. Norin told us not to talk even though we would anyhow.

Sean@vashonloop.com