To End All Wars

They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there right on the job
They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?
                              -E.Y. Harburg


There were such lines as this when my grandmother was a girl, during the “great war,” as they called it. Funny now to think that people actually believed such nonsense.

She told me that her mother gave them rags to chew as they went to bed, lest their beliies make them cry in the night and wake the others who shared the house.

All the women worked in a munitions plant, their hands died ochre from the sulfur.

They’d finish work and wait for a chance to buy bread. Not the bread itself, mind you; just the opportunity to buy it.

Friday Fictioneers


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  1. Na'ama Yehuda

    It is an important piece of history, and one I’ve heard from friends who’d grown up in countries in the world where to stand in line for bread (that may be there or might run out by the time they reached the store) was a more recent thing. And I have friends who work with refugees who walk for days, sometimes through war zones, to get to where they might be allowed to stand in line for hours for the possibility of bread or rice or maize.
    We have not won that war on hunger yet. And some are still perpetuating the hunger in their profiteering.
    May humanity rise above it.

  2. Dale

    Perfect poem to go with this story of the grandmother’s life. She survived it and I bet you she doesn’t waste a damn thing.
    Very well done, Josh.

  3. bearmkwa

    A sad reality… I remember reading of such desperation in my Gr. Grand’s journals. How they sucked rocks, just to pull out what minerals they could… .gives “stone soup” a whole other meaning as Gram’s journals told of how they would boil rocks and grass to make a broth…survival at it’s hardest. I’ve done this during survival trips…it’s disgusting. But you do what you need to do.

  4. patriciaruthsusan

    A good story, Josh. My dad was in the U.S. Navy before, during, and after WWI. He then went to work in a rubber shop so he always had a job. It was harder during the Depression when he was laid off from the fire department. Until he got back on, his stepfather found jobs for him. The house was saved when President Roosevelt put a special bill through. That was all before I was born but they told me about it. —- Suzanne

Don't just stand there.