Still fresh after more than 60 years

By Gus Bode

Helen Deniston said she did not completely understand the reason for a celebration in the streets of Carbondale in 1945.

The Carbondale resident of more than 60 years joined her neighbors in celebrating the end of World War II by beating on a pie tin. The war’s end also put a stop to the scrap drives, blackouts, war bonds and the marching of German prisoners of war through the city’s streets, Deniston said, a far cry from a modern-day Veterans Day.

Deniston and life-long Carbondale resident Dorothy Ittner are volunteers on the Historic Preservation Commission – a group recommending the safe keeping of places in the city important to its past. The commission has expanded to also preserve stories that may become lost in future Veterans Days.


Ittner has interviewed several people for an oral history project sponsored by the commission. A few of the participants remember watching German prisoners of war shuffle their feet as they were escorted around downtown Carbondale before re-boarding a train to prison. Ittner said Jean Lawson, one of her interviewees, did not understand why the prisoner’s were so petrified until reading about the Holocaust in high school.

“None of us really knew about the Holocaust,” Ittner said. “We heard rumors that they were not treated well, but that was a whole other episode.”

Amongst many memories, Deniston said she remembers having to walk up on a stage and give money to her elementary school principal for a war bond before ever celebrating the war’s end.

She also tried to make a profit during a time period when rations were in place on a household’s amount of sugar. A young Deniston said she bought her family’s ration of sugar and sold it at a makeshift store to people passing by.

Ittner said she recalled a time when a string of connections landed her with rationed bubble gum. In an effort to make the flavor last longer, Ittner said she and her friends kept the pieces of gum in glasses of water overnight to keep them fresh for the next day.

But both have memories that did not bring them to chuckle upon reflection. Such as the case when Deniston recalled streetlights and pulled window shades, even though the sun was still setting, to practice for the worst-case scenario of an air attack.

“My job was to pull the shades when the air-raid sirens went off,” she said.


When she lived in Marion, Deniston said she remembered contributing to the scrap piles behind the elementary school. Even something as little as the tin foil from the back of a gum wrapper did not escape Deniston’s effort to contribute to the pile.

Though World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war, soldiers from the United States have been deployed numerous times. Since then, residents such as Ittner and Deniston have watched a different type of reaction to soldiers fighting overseas. During the 1960s and 1970s, riots and other forms of demonstrations in the city replaced scrap drives and blackouts.

The contrast makes it hard for Deniston to point out an exact date that conflicts ended.

“And that’s pretty sad,” she said.

Barton Lorimor can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 274 or [email protected].