Birthday: December 30, 1923
Birthplace: Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Family: Lucy and Henry Hintz
Occupation: Stayed home several years with her children.
Millie Johnson was in her late teens and early twenties during World War II. She worked in the Harvard Clothing Factory, which received contracts from the government to make army overcoats. Then they received orders to make Eisenhower jackets, first for the officers and then for the enlisted men. When they were not manufacturing army clothing, they produced suits for a business in Chicago. Millie worked on a machine that made buttonholes. The men who worked there did the cutting and the pressing. The floor girls did the hard work, carrying the materials to different machines.
"I did not even want a job. I had gone with one of my husband's relatives who wanted to apply for a job. As it turned out, I got the job and she did not. Every morning at about 10:00 a.m., the large man that I worked next to would take out a this big onion and eat it like an apple. My boss was a Jewish man from Chicago. He was very nice and treated everyone well. I was paid by how much work I did, not by the hour."(called piece-work)
After Pearl Harbor was attacked, every family was afraid that their loved ones would be drafted and sent off to fight. Millie was very afraid for her husband, Delbert. The week after their marriage license was published in the newspaper, her husband received a notice. He was sent to Milwaukee to go through tests to see if he was eligible, and was sent back for more tests a month later. Delbert was classified as ineligible and went home to spend the war years working in the Wisconsin Rapids area.
There were times that Delbert was seen as a "draft-dodger" by those whose own family members had gone to fight. They wondered why their loved ones had to risk their lives while he could stay behind. "It was embarrassing for him. Many men probably couldn't go because of health reasons." Most of Delbert's friends had joined the army and every one of them returned home. They understood why Delbert did not go to fight and left the subject alone.
"It was a good thing my husband didn't go into the service because my husband lost his hearing; he was quite deaf. He started losing his hearing in 1953. Eventually he was totally deaf. So I think maybe it was a good thing he didn't go because of all the shooting and the noise and the explosions. He probably would have lost his hearing much sooner than he did."
"Everybody got married quickly. I don't think I would have gotten married that quickly had it not been for the war. So many women my age would tell you that. The men were afraid if they went into the service, their girlfriends would get another boy friend and not be there. So everybody jumped into marriage. I planned on going to be a nurse. Well, that ended it. I got married. I'm not sorry about it, but, I mean, everybody's life would have been a lot different had it not been for that second World War. People did things so quickly that they didn't stop to think, `Maybe we should wait.' They didn't know how long the war was going to last for one thing. And everybody was going. They were taking busloads of young men. It was scary. It really was."
"During the war, I made more money than my husband did. He was a machinest at Consolidated Papers. I worked only 4-5 hours a day, or until all the work was done. Consolidated promised all the men who left to fight that they would still have their jobs when they got back. My sister worked at Consolidated during the war for her husband who left to fight. She did what was called `a man's job.'"
Rationing impacted the lifestyles of most U.S. citizens, including those in Wisconsin Rapids. "You got a certain amount of stamps. They were about half the size of a postage stamp. My folks would give us some of theirs." Ration books were used for meat, butter, gasoline, and many other everyday items. People really started to carpool once the gasoline became available only by ration stamps. "If you had the stamps, you were allowed to buy the product. If you didn't have the stamps, you couldn't buy the product. If you ran out of stamps, tough! I will never forget how I stood in line at Johnson Hill's for a pound of ground beef during the noon hour. "
When the end of the war came, celebration was the theme of most peoples' lives. Millie remembered: "We lived on Lincoln Street...and when it [the war's end] was announced my sister was there and her husband was still gone and I can remember everybody running out of their houses and standing in their front yards. Everybody was hugging each other. You didn't even have to know who they were. A car would stop on Lincoln Street, people would get out, and everybody was hugging everybody. Jumping up and down and screaming and hollering because the war was over." People would call each other and talk about it for hours and then call other people and talk about it again.
The people of Wisconsin Rapids did not really know about the Holocaust. They did know that people were shipped in trains and sent to places to be gassed. People usually never thought about it because they did not believe it was actually occurring. Hitler was disliked throughout the war, and was hated even more when people found out what he did to the Jews. Millie said, "No one liked him [Hitler] because of the way he shouted. He acted like he was Godlike he could rule the world." Most people were happy when Hitler committed suicide, but many did not believe it.
Wisconsin Rapids did a lot to contribute to the war effort. German prisoners of war were held at the airport. The movie theater showed newsreels to inform the citizens. Millie reflected, "There were things going on locally and I don't think people ever dreamed of the things that were done around here."
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104