As a child growing up in Chestertown in the 1940s Thomas Davis experienced the impacts that World War II had on the town firsthand. He vividly remembers being at a radio station in Centreville with his father when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor broke. Soon after his father would move the family to Chestertown and took a job at the newly opened Kent Defense Plant which manufactured hand grenade parts for the war effort.
While his father was doing his best to contribute to the war effort, young Thomas Davis was a paper boy and was constantly reminded of the ongoing conflict in the headlines of the papers he delivered. Through this and the news reels shown at the movie theatre Davis was stayed informed about what was happening overseas. He even kept a map of Europe and the Pacific in his bedroom where he would track the advancing troop movements of the Allies against the Axis powers. I was surprised by just how closely he followed the war and how informed he was, especially at such a young age.
Davis also helped shed new light on the black market in Chestertown. We had heard that there was illegal goods being sold to circumvent the federally mandated rationing but we didn’t have specifics. Davis told us that and his friends were exploring around the Custom House when they found a pile of illegal tires being sold behind a neighboring house. While Davis didn’t go into further details it was still fascinating to finally get a firsthand account of what the black market, which we’d been hearing so much about, looked like.
Overall, the interview with Thomas Davis provided us with many compelling stories of life on the home front. We came away with a much more vivid picture of what life was like in Chestertown during the tumultuous years of World War II.