November 13, 2007


'I just missed': Donald Hall remembers listening to reports of the war on this console radio at his grandfather's farm in Wilmot. (Donald Hall, 11/04/07, Concord Monitor)

As a teenager, Donald Hall lived in Connecticut, where his father ran a dairy, and spent his summers with his maternal grandparents, Wesley and Kate Wells, on their farm at Eagle Pond in Wilmot. Since 1975, he has lived on the farm. His study now was his room then, and the farm was already his poetry place. He was 13 when the war began.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and my parents were upstairs napping. Red Barber was broadcasting a professional football game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Barber interrupted to say the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and we were at war. They spoke about this for a minute and went back to the ballgame. I went to the foot of the stairs and called up - because I knew they often had the radio on when they took naps - "Did you hear that?" "Yes."

I don't remember when I started reading newspapers, but it was young - certainly by this time. Not long after, I remember thinking, what do newspapers write about when there's not a war? Every newspaper headline, every front page was the war. It was the Pacific and Europe. It seemed to me there was nothing else for four years. All journalism - radio and print - was consumed with this.

When I came up here in the summer, we got the Boston Post two days after publication. It came up by mail to the post office in West Andover, seven-tenths of a mile from here. We would read that and find out about baseball games two days ago. There was baseball still, but the war, the war.

Newspapers were full of maps, and we became aware of the Marshall Islands, or the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Australia. We learned about North Africa, Sicily, Finland and Norway. This began in '39.

Airplanes were the most exciting thing - incredibly romantic. It was like space travel a few decades ago. I read aviation magazines even before the war. I could look up and identify a single-engine monoplane or a Waco, which was a biplane. Any flight over an ocean - Wrong-Way Corrigan, Amelia Earhart's disappearance - was incredibly big news. My poems, especially early ones, were full of airplanes - that's where it comes from.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2007 6:55 AM
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