Charles Welch Family, Pacifists

Mary Welch

How Charles addressed WWII was one to which he gave great thought. Brought up in a family where his brother 18 years his senior was an air pilot in WWI, there was great pressure for him to go to West Point.

Fortunately for him his petition was not granted. In his early college years, as I also came to know, he met Allan Hunter, a stated Pacifist in WWI, was an ambulance driver in the Mideast. This served even more to see the wrongs of war and to this end he was very influential for college young people. Both Charles and I were greatly influenced by him.

When Charles and I were married in 1936 the rumblings of armies in Europe made us sure of our position. So we looked up Friends, who had a testament for peace. Through Religious Society of Friends we met John Way, Temple City, Friend.

In 1942 America was at war. We were living in Blythe, California where Charles was an Agriculture teacher in high school. It was a small and very patriotic town that was sucked into playing a part in the preparations. First there was the training of raw soldiers for desert warfare on the mesa to the west. Daily in 110 degrees heat cars full of young recruits were shipped in to learn killing and survival skills. Their sweethearts, wives and mothers were permitted to come to see them, many for the last time. As the town could not accommodate the great surge of loved ones, residents were asked to open their homes for a few days.

At the same time the assumed threat of the Japanese invasion in the Los Angeles area put our town on alert for the great exodus expected through Blythe. All the women were expected to donate sewing materials and extra(we were allowed 2 pairs) sheets. I took my sewing machine to the center where we made layettes, rolled bandages from sheets for the expected emergencies we were assured would occur. Training in first aid was mandatory. I, six months pregnant, was a model of sorts for the midwifes we all would of necessity become.

The need for food was a concern. Carrots were the growing crop during that Spring/early summer season. Women on the farm and in the Grange met at various homes, ours was one, to pressure cook and can thousand of quarts of carrots, using jars and lids the government issued.

In June when Charles’ tenure came up for review, he stated his position as a registered conscientious objector. The school board was aghast. As they said, "No red-blooded American would be a Pacifist." He was asked to resign. On principle, he opted to be fired. Our landlord rented our house to the commanding officers in charge of the trainees the last day of school in June 1942. We left Blythe.

Charles and a teacher friend from Los Angeles were asked to supervise with one other Los Angeles teacher 500 pre-enlisted teen boys how to harvest sugar beet seeds in Hemet Valley. Somehow this was important to the war effort. In June and July, Hemet, a high desert valley had 110 degree heat. These boys, in their school clothes, were unprepared for the rigors of farm work under blistering sun and the taunts of the local farm boys who manned the tractors. Nights were nightmares. Not only did the three men serve as labor overseers, they were nursing, acting as judges and mothers for the homesick boys. Blisters, sunburn, stings and sunstroke they dealt with. Even so the ranks thinned until by the end of the harvest only 150 boys went home with their meager wages and were the wiser. So were Charles and his co-worker, exhausted but exhilarated by the experience on the home front.

bar.gif (3918 bytes)

from Roots and Fruits, a publication of the Stanislaus Peace-Life Center and the Stanislaus Safe Energy Committee

forward.gif (1527 bytes) back to Connections' home page         forward.gif (1527 bytes) to Roots and Fruits Table of Contents