Interview with Jean C. Comeforo
While many New Jersey women participated directly in the war effort through their involvement in the WAC, WAVE, and WASP, women on the homefront contributed in other ways. Jean C. Comeforo, a Metuchen resident, attended NJC (New Jersey College of Women, later Douglass) during the war. The war overshadowed all aspects of life and required sacrifice by all. She recalls some typical activities in which she and other women participated to support the war effort.
"I used to work at Johnson and Johnson as so many of my classmates did and some of the other classes too...wrapping bandages for the war effort. We felt privileged to be in school, we wanted to do something positive and that was a little bit of a thing for us to do, to work at J & J, and so you did it, and a lot of them did it at night after classes, and a lot of them did it in the afternoon."
"When you went to a prom, your corsage was supposed to be made up of war bond stamps. You were supposed to wear that, that was patriotic. If you wore flowers, well, that's all right,...but you should be patriotic...you paid for each stamp, it wasn't very much money, I forget how much, and then you got a war bond and you were helping the war effort by wearing this corsage, that's what your fellow was supposed to bring you."
"We had an obstacle course in gym...and a lot of us got injured on that obstacle course, but we were supposed to jump over the fences, and swing on the bars and all that kind of stuff to keep us healthy and strong, the homefront should be strong...We were all conscious to have victory gardens and eat vegetables and get vitamins, and be strong and healthy...That sort of thing was what I particularly participated in, the victory garden because I commuted and I was home, and my father had a victory garden and my mother canned everything he grew that we didn't eat right away."
She describes black out restrictions and air raid drills:
"I remember everything went out in an air raid. All the street lights went out. Everything was pitch black, you better put out all your lights, you should have had dark shades over your windows already anyway, but you better put out the lights in your house and when the air raid whistle went off, you just sat there in the dark until it [ended]...I remember I was babysitting in a house one night when an air raid came, and all the lights went out and I had to put all the lights out, and there was a blind dog with long toenails walking around the house on wooden floors. I went up and sat next to the baby for company. I was the best I could to to...feel secure, it wasn't my house, it was a strange house and ...all the noises were not familiar."
Social lives were impacted by the war:
"There were two things that happened, the fellows got drafted from Rutgers, and so the social life just disappeard really, and the other thing was that it was a ...very serious time. This was wartime, and our fiancees and our boyfriends and our uncles and brothers were going...overseas, and we were frightened for all of them. The girls went down to the library every day and read the newspapers for the casualty lists to see, one of the classmates' husband was over there, and she read every day to see whether he was on the casualty list, that's how you found out...Our whole attitude changed, it became much more serious. They were out there going to war, they were fighting and they were doing their best over there, the least we can do, is do the best that we're going to do, we can be serious about what we're doing. Either that or we should stop doing it, if we weren't going to be serious about it, we should do something else like get a job and work for the war effort, instead of going to school."
The proximity of Camp Kilmer influenced social life in both positive and negative ways:
"I remember there were so few men left, and I remember that being a big problem, but then along came the USO, so that kind of filled in - the USO and dances at Camp Kilmer, and the girls all got dressed up and had their social life anyway. A lot of marriages happened at the USO and the Camp Kilmer dances. I mean that's were they met...My high school and college friend met her husband at a USO, and she got married her senior year of college. Other marriages happened"
"It (Camp Kilmer) changed the ambiance of New Brunswick completely. There were the brown uniforms,...the khaki uniforms all over the place. The girls on campus who needed to walk anywhere, downtown, or to classes over here, or whatever, had to go in groups for protection. That was very important...it wasn't the happiest thing to have Camp Kilmer so close. It...produced some anxiety...NJC was off limit to the soldiers. The only exception was the husbands of the people...who were in Camp Kilmer and they wanted to visit their wives, so they were allowed on Campus. But otherwise NJC was off limits."
For the following questions read the interviews with Jean Comeforo,Alice Jennings Archibald and Mary Robinson.
- Compare and contrast the different experiences each woman had.
- Reading the accounts, how did each woman view her contribution to the war effort?