Seventy five years ago today, Saturday, January 29, 1944, a baby boy was born at 4:14 a.m. in the Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital at Hastings, Nebraska. He was named Howard Lee Renschler in honor of Howard McGavick, his parents’ friend who was a prisoner of war in Germany. Howard was a gunner on a bomber that had been shot down. The baby was called “Pat” from his birth. He weighed seven pounds, seven ounces and was nineteen inches long.
Pat’s parents were Marion Eugene “Bud” Renschler and his wife Maxine Wymore Renschler. They were 28 and 29 years old respectively. Bud’s occupation at the time was fireman at the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot. Bud had tried to enlist in the Navy but was rejected because he was color blind.
Pat was the fifth child and first son born to Bud and Maxine. Maxine told me she was so happy to have a son that she held him before the nurse had him “cleaned up.” He was delivered by Dr. Nowers, a popular Kenesaw doctor. When Pat came home after the standard ten days in the hospital, he was greeted by three sisters, Bobbie, almost 6, Alberta, almost 5, and Penny, 14 months. His oldest sister, Shirley had died at birth in 1935.
When Pat was born the family lived in a rented house in Juniata. I am not sure which house it was. I know the family had lived in two rented Juniata houses; one just north of the tennis court on 9th Street. The other house was at 911 Blue River Avenue, on the corner of 10th Street. Both houses still stand. In March 1944 when Pat was less than two months old, Bud and Maxine purchased from Hattie Parmenter the house at 210 West 10th St. where Pat grew up. We also lived there the first three years we were married and it was the first house Christina lived in. Bud and Maxine sold the house in October 1976.
The country was in the midst of World War II in 1944. One of the most important events of the year was D-Day, June 6, 1944, the day the Allies landed on the beaches at Normandy, France to begin the drive to defeat the Germans. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.
Most women did not work outside the home, however, many women were working in defense plants, like the Navy Depot at Hastings where Pat’s Grandmother, Clarice Bugg, was working making ammunition. The average family income was $2,400 a year. What would $200 a month buy then? An average new house cost $3,500. However, because of the war few materials were available to build a house. A new car, if one had been available cost about $950. No cars, commercial trucks, or auto parts were made from February 1942 to October 1945 because automotive factories were making military vehicles. A gallon of gas, if you had the necessary ration stamp, was 15 cents. A loaf of bread was ten cents and a gallon of milk 60 cents. In January 1944 the following items were rationed: gasoline, bicycles, footwear, silk, nylon, fuel oil, tires, stoves, sugar, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, canned, bottled, and frozen foods, dried fruits, firewood and coal, jams, jellies and fruit butter. Even items that weren’t rationed were often not available.