A Child’s World War II Era Impressions

Pennsylvania Memories is a special series marking the turn of the millennium featuring readers' memories of events, experiences, incidents, individuals, innovations or inventions that profoundly affected them or gave them a deep appreciation of personal history.

When war rages across the ocean, the secure world of a young rural child is little affected, although a few highlights remain in memory.

I treasured that little lapel button that proclaimed me a “Lieutenant” in the war effort’s scrap drive. It was exciting to collect and deposit my pickings in the school yard of my one-room school in Harrity, Carbon County. It was scary to be told to turn off all the lights for a blackout. It was awesome to watch a long convoy of Army trucks pass our house on Route 209.

But the biggest excitement was getting a ride in a Coca-Cola delivery truck with Daddy. Being a proprietor of the PoHoPoCo Inn, a country restaurant and the new fashion, tourist cabins in the Poconos, our livelihood depended mainly on customers in cars. World War II brought gasoline rationing, ration coupons, no new tires, and an end to unnecessary travel. Financially this put my parents in a bind. Much discussion of their financial situation ensued – mostly in Pennsylva­nia German to spare me worry. Daddy had to get a job outside the restaurant. Mother would take care of the restaurant business during the day by herself. My father was very personable so the Coca-Cola delivery truck route suited him perfectly.

Being a country child, with no readily available play­mates, the men delivering supplies to our restaurant were very important to my daily routine. To me, the most fascinating procedure was the servicing of our jukebox. To see the inner workings of this colorful mechanical marvel, collect the coins, and put in new records was an event I never missed. The innards of the cigarette machine, with its vertical slots filled with many brands, were really some­thing too, but by no means equal to the mystique of the jukebox.

Then there was the iceman who filled the big red soda case! He could break a huge chunk of ice exactly where he wanted with his dangerous-looking ice pick. Other memorable deliverymen were the grocer, the candy man, the bread man, and the soda man. All were very nice people who were very tolerant of an inquisitive and “helpful” eight-year-old girl. With such good experiences, having a father as a deliveryman was something to be very proud of.

I remember Daddy’s uniforms – white for summer and tan in winter. They had a thin green pinstripe and a leather patch on the side to cushion the weight of heavy wooden soda cases. Riding in the cab of a big truck up and down the steep hills of the coal region towns of Summit Hill, Coaldale, Nesquehoning, and Lansford was truly exciting, and I was so pleased to be delivering Coke with him. I even got to go to the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Palmerton. What a thrill for a child!


Lila May Fretz, a retired registered nurse, lives in Lenhartsville, Berks County, with her husband Frank. She is extremely interested in the documentation and preservation of local history, particularly through the collection of oral histories. Size is active with the Pennsylvania German Folk Culture Society of the Pennsylvania German Heritage Collection at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. The society preserves and interprets the culture, heritage, and dialect of the Pennsylvania Germans.