The American War Bride Experience

GI Brides of World War II


by Joan Bieltz'

I have to tell you about a very old English custom first:
I was quite young before the war started and it probably was the period that Americans refer to as THE DEPRESSION - but we did not have a name for it. My mother worked in a textile mill, my father worked locally on railroad freight.

You have to understand that in those days there was no excuses for being late, being absent or anything --- and one could get fired for the least cause.

Most people did not have alarm clocks and even at a time when they were probably available most people didn't buy them (considered a luxury).

In the late 1800's (before my time of course) the custom was to hire a man who to whom each family gave a time for him to wake them in the morning --- he carried a very long stick and he went around tapping on bedroom windows at the stated time -- this method was still in vogue when I was very young, but of course with the war everything changed.

Don't fall off your chair when I tell you - the man who went around tapping on the windows was called THE KNOCKER UP. And this phrase was used long after there was such a man, or such a job, and alarm clocks were the order of the day.

The phrase however continued to be used and It was common in households to ask each other WHAT TIME DO YOU WANT TO BE KNOCKED UP.

I met my GI BOY friend, and because of his distance from camp, my mother said he could stay over for the weekend. When he was retiring and saying goodnight to my family my mother asked him WHAT TIME WOULD HE LIKE TO BE KNOCKED UP.

Of course it was a normal phrase to me. It was not until long after we were married that he mentioned it and told me that when my mother asked him that he thought 'Oh my God what kind of a house is this??' === later of course it was a real joke amongst the Americans and they realized the English interpretation of this phrase.

THAT IS A TRUE STORY. Of course I have heard all kinds of other tales - because it was common to leave a note in the milk bottles put outside - and inform the milkman to 'KNOCK ME UP WHEN YOU GET HERE'. I was not even aware of the different meaning until I came over here - because I was very naive and no-one HAD told me about what the phrase meant in America.

There are other language differences too - can't think of more at the moment, except ones that I would not put in writing.

J. Bieltz

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