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WARTIME STORIES THE HOME FRONT 43 was the SS John D. Gill, an oil tanker torpedoed in March 1942. The tanker burned for 24 hours and was seen from Wrightsville to Southport. A few days after the major blackout, she rode over the Wrightsville Beach bridge with her parents and little brother in her dad’s Tidewater Power Company truck. They were stopped by the man at the bridge booth, because the public was not being permitted onto the island without good reason. They were allowed across and she was horrified by what greeted them. “I felt like our beach had blown up,” she says. “I saw clumps of oil on the beach where it washed up, not a whole lot of it, but it was awful.” In those days she spent much of her playtime on Wrightsville Beach with her cousins and aunts, Suzy Dock and Lillian Huggins, whom she says lived in what is now known as the Ewing-Bordeaux Cottage on North Lumina. “People down here at the beach covered all lights, and had darkened shades a deep green,” Millard says. “If you had an auto-mobile over here, they had to paint or tape the top of the head-lights so they would only reflect down on the road.” Her mother, Virginia Rogers, was an airplane spotter who worked out of Bluethenthal Field (now Wilmington International). She was sent to several other towers in the area, including at Wrightsville Beach. “Close to where the Blockade Runner is now, there was a tower about five stories, and there were places to spot on big hotels,” Millard says. Her father, Stephen “Monk” Rogers, also volunteered for the war effort as a warden. “His helmet was like a hard hat that had a tiny light under it, so he could see to walk. He checked on houses and helped people get home,” she recalls. Another wartime memory involves the use of ration stamps. “Daddy had a small store at 820 Orange, on the corner of Ninth,” she says. “People would come in and give stamps to get cigarettes, shoes or gas. We had to put them in a book. One time a lady, Mrs. Penny, said, ‘Monk, I gotta get some shoes for the kids to go to school in.’ She gave him gas stamps and maybe something else for her kids’ shoes.” The ration stamps were issued by the government. “If it wasn’t time for more stamps, you would have to wait for gas,” she says. Her neighborhood, near Robert Strange Park, was home to a German prisoner of war camp. She and her friends would go and talk to the captured soldiers. “They didn’t speak English, but you could make signs and gestures, like apple, and we’d give them an apple if we had one to spare,” she says. She remembers them being nice, and her mom telling her they didn’t want to go back to Germany. Millard recalls playing with all the kids in the neighborhood, a segregated one that was integrated during playtime. “Meadowlark Lemon’s family lived right behind us. His momma had a lot of kids. She was always out using the wash tub,” she says. “My brother and I played on their porch and they came to pet our goats. Everybody played with our rabbits and goats.” They also played rocks (jacks) and kick the can. “Mash cans” was invented as a way to make play of the requirement to recycle cans. They would walk around on the cans until they were flattened. Recycling, in vogue now, was a requirement during wartime. “We saved cans, naturally,” Millard says. “We would stack newspapers and tie them together. We even saved paper off chew-ing gum or cigarettes, aluminum paper. Daddy had a list of what to save and he told us to get the silver paper that lined cigarette packs. He had the list up in his store. And if you were cooking, you were supposed to save lard and turn it in in a can, too.” www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM


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