HARVESTING OF MILK WEED PODS
World War II

by Gordon Cornell
Village and Town Historian

   


It was during the years of World War II, while I was in grade school, that the youth were asked to assist in the war effort by gathering milk weed pods. The contents of these pods were to be used for floatation material in the life vests for the US Navy. We were supplied with several "onion sacks" per child and asked to gather all we could. We even received a small compensation for each bag filled!

It was with great enthusiasm that I embarked upon this task. Not long after, however, I came to realize that it took VERY MANY pods to fill one onion sack. My effort continued until a few sacks had been filled and hung up to dry. We were told that if we piled them up they might mildew or rot and be useless, so they were hung up with care.

When I returned home I was a sight!  If you have ever handled even a few pods or leaves you know what a mess the milk makes as you become very sticky and all sorts of soil is attracted to it and secured to your flesh and clothing. Mother appeared horrified when she saw me, but since we were doing this to help in the war effort, I received praise rather than a reprimand.

Eventually the day arrived when the sacks were to be delivered to the school. A close friend and schoolmate, Bill Warren, had been collecting milk weed pods as well, so his Dad, Frank Warren, loaded all of our sticky old sacks into the back seat area of his old Auburn automobile and away we went to school. I have no recollection as to how much of a mess was made of the cloth upholstery in that old but very nice car.

When we arrived at the school, our bags were counted and hung on the fence that surrounded the tennis courts, so that they might continue to dry.  Eventually they were trucked away, to where I know not, but it was always my hope that in some way the pods may have helped to save the life of one of our servicemen.
    


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Copyright 2001, Gordon Cornell
Copyright 2001, Allyn Hess Perry, Jeanette Shiel
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Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:53 PDT