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Three Wheat Ridge seniors who lived through World War II had plenty to share when asked about their experiences and how they compare to the coronavirus pandemic today.
All three residents at MorningStar Assisted Living recalled the turmoil of living through rationing to support the war effort, and said that Americans now should approach wearing masks with the same unity.
“Stop thinking of yourself, and think about the society you’re living in,” 91-year-old veteran Leonard Custer pleaded. “If a mask will make the difference, we should wear it.”
“Everyone should wear a mask the minute they leave their house,” 84-year-old Ralph Hinst said.
“We should respect others that we meet as well as ourselves, and wear that mask joyfully, because we here at MorningStar have remained coronavirus-free, and that’s a big blessing,” said 91-year-old Geri Gloystein.
Below is a breakdown of each of their experiences and discussions on the topic with 9NEWS.
Leonard Custer, 91
Len Custer said he was just 13 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and 17 when he enlisted in the Navy.
He said he remembers the nation pulling together during a time of international strife.
“Very unified, I guess you could say, very patriotic,” Custer recalled.
Custer said he thinks members of younger generations are brighter and more independent thinkers, but also thinks that more younger people are also looking for a cause.
“In my lifetime, I’ve never seen it so confused,” Custer said. “I think we’re probably in one of the most confused areas of our time. Not only because of the virus problem, but it complicates a very difficult political time that we’re in.”
Custer said he thinks the division may partially come from the unseen nature of COVID-19.
“It’s easier to be a patriot in war,” Custer said. “Maybe they can’t see the real enemy. Maybe they should look inward. They may be the real enemy.”
Custer said he believes Americans, already facing the economic impacts of the pandemic and extensive political turmoil, need to come together before it’s too late.
“It’s going to leave scars beyond the people that died in our society, and if they don’t learn to pull together, they won’t come out of it,” Custer warned. “Particularly with the political turmoil we’re facing.”
Custer said that if health experts tell him to wear a mask, he supports it.
“But they sure are inconvenient, I don’t get an awful lot of kisses anymore,” Custer joked.
Geri Gloystein, 91
Geri Gloystein said she was in high school during World War II.
“I remember all of the rationing that we did, the stamp books we had,” Gloystein recalled. “The gas, the sugar, flour — all of those things were rationed.”
She said she remembers having to present a stamp every time she went to the store.
“They would tear it out, so you learned to live carefully and not be wasteful.”
Gloystein said her family had a garden and her mother canned everything she could, including meat, to offset the rations.
She said she remembers neighbors coming together to help each other in the 1940s, but doesn’t see that happening in 2020.
“I feel that at that time we all worked together, neighbors and friends, we were all willing to share and care for each other, and I see it now as a sort of a me-world,” Gloystein recalled. “For everyone’s betterment, for a better world, a better environment, a better attitude, I do not see that same sense today.”
Gloystein said comparing her situation to protesters that have been filling city streets across the county in recent months puts things in perspective.
“I feel sorry for the protesters also, who are fighting everything,” Gloystein said. “So, I don’t mind at all putting my little face mask on.”
Ralph Hinst, 84
Ralph Hinst said he remembers he was just starting first grade in Denver when war broke out.
“We did all kinds of things in the war to help with the war effort,” 84-year-old Ralph Hinst remembered.
In addition to rations on meat and gasoline, he said he remembers not being able to buy many car parts, including tires, because they all went towards the war effort.
“So many of the men had been drafted. A lot of them were younger than my father,” Hinst said. “It was tough.”
Hinst said that everyone should wear a mask whenever they leave their home.