World War 2 History strong in Fruitcake Fallout — Paula Moldenhauer
Today I’m happy to welcome author Paula Moldenhauer as she discusses her latest release, Fruitcake Fallout.
Thank you for joining us on History Through the Ages to talk about the historical content in your latest release, Fruitcake Fallout. There’s a lot of historic detail in this book. How much of it is true?
I tried very hard make the story as historically accurate as possible. Over and over I’d be typing along and stop to Google a picture of the clothing I wanted to describe or to check a detail. For example I wanted Willie and Evie (the stories hero and heroine) to wear “Dress Blues” in one scene, but then I thought I’d better check that fact. Turns out that the army discontinued making the dress blue uniform during WW II as a money and time-saving measure. So I had to put them in their “Class A” uniforms instead.
Another time I wanted Willie to wash new cars at his job after the war ended, but I discovered the manufacturing of automobiles ended in 1942 and didn’t begin again until the last quarter of 1945. One advertising slogan in 1945 said, “There’s a Ford in your future!” The automobile industry wanted the public to remember them!
If I missed a historic detail, it wasn’t for lack of effort!
Your book includes a lovely story of a German woman, Inga, helping Willie on Christmas during the Battle of the Bulge, but it’s hard to believe something like that actually happened. Did it?
Believe or not, it did! This was one of those great “God moments” for me. I was thinking about the famous Christmas truce in 1914 and went digging to see if anything like that happened in WW II. I came across an article entitled, “A Small Christmas Truce.” I cried when I read it, and I knew Willie and his army buddy Lawrence needed their own special Christmas moment. I wrote the scene with a desire to honor the real mother and son, Elisabeth and Fritz, and the God who is always working, even in the darkest of places.
Mine is a fictionalized account. I changed the names and took liberties with the details, but wanted you to know that something this beautiful actually happened in 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge when some American soldiers were lost in the Ardennes Forest. I encourage you to read the true story, which can be found at: https://owlcation.com/humanities/About-World-War-2-A-Small-Christmas-Truce. I’ll share one beautiful fact from the TRUE story. The son, Fritz, eventually tried to find the soldiers his mother took care of that night. After years of searching he found one of the Americans in a nursing home in Frederick, Maryland, and they were reunited! The article said, “Fritz flew to Frederick in January 1996 and met with Ralph Blank, one of the American soldiers who still had the German compass and map. Ralph told Fritz ‘Your mother saved my life.’ Fritz said the reunion was the high point of his life.”
Any other historical detail you’d like to bring out?
One more favorite find during research was an article about a young boy who worked for Western Union during the war. I’d never considered how difficult that job was. Telegrams from Western Union were the primary way that family back home was notified of the loss of their loved one far off on the Western Front or in the South Pacific. The article I read was about Dewey Alley, who at sixteen was a bicycle courier for Western Union. There are a lot of heroes out there, and not all of them served overseas. This man is one of them in my book. His story made me cry—again. I loved writing Fruitcake Fallout, and it has a very happy ending. I also love the nuggets like this that I found doing research, but yes, I’ve done a lot of crying. I really encourage you to check out his story: www.newsobserver.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/josh-shaffer/article183874711.html
Did you just say, “in my book?” Isn’t that slang from the 1940s?
It is! And I’ve used it for years. That just goes to show how long some phrases live on in our language. In that last question I talked about crying a lot. Playing with the slang of the 40s was one of my great delights. I just love calling the girls “birds” and having Evelyn’s best friend want to give someone a “knuckle sandwich.” Here’s one of my favorites: ducky shincracker. Any guess what that one means?
Women weren’t allowed to serve in the armed forces before World War II. How did society respond to this idea?
My heroine, Evelyn served as a WAC. The WACs were courageous women who were willing to step outside of traditional roles to serve their country. I interviewed a real-life WAC, Ruth Keal, as I researched for this story. My friend Ruth never complained, but other research indicated that not everyone was comfortable with women serving in the armed forces. These brave women were sometimes accused of everything from being job-stealers to being women of low morals. But as they faced the judgment and served faithfully, their character spoke for itself. The respect for WACs grew. When Ruth first “joined up,” she would have joined the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), but during her time of service the female troops were converted to full military status and renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Today the troops are integrated. There is no longer a separate branch for women. Women like Ruth enjoy full veteran benefits today.
Why did you station your heroine at Fort Riley, Kansas?
Originally Evelyn was stationed in New York City. I wanted to get her far away from her Colorado home and put her in an unfamiliar environment, but I had trouble verifying details, like what her housing would be like. Then I discovered that some of the WACS stationed in the Big Apple were scientists who were involved in the very secret work of the Manhattan Project! That story line has huge possibilities—but I knew it would take over the story I’d already established. As I thought about how to handle the issue, my friend Ruth agreed to help me with historical research. Ruth was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. After gleaning a lot of wonderful details from Ruth’s true-life story, I moved the birds to Fort Riley, Kansas, where Ruth passed her time during the war. I’ve included notes from my interview with Ruth at the end of Fruitcake Fallout. I think you’ll enjoy seeing where pieces of her true story intersect with the fictional characters in the story.
Where can I find Fruitcake Fallout? Tell us a little more about the book.
Fruitcake Fallout is part of a novella collection releasing this holiday season. It’s a story with a lot of spunk, but it also has some deep moments, as is necessary for a book set during World War 2. I laughed and cried as I wrote. I expect readers will likely do the same. Fruitcake Fallout can be purchased on Kindle as a single title, or as part of the larger collection, Tinseled Tidings, in paperback. You can get information on both options at: https://www.amazon.com/Tinseled-Tidings-3-Book-Series/dp/B077BWG77T
Here’s a summary of the story:
Fruitcake Fallout ~ Family legend says that the Preston fruitcake recipe makes young couples fall in love. But when Evelyn Preston, a WAC serving her country during World War II, sends one to her high school crush stationed overseas, she snags the wrong private! Willie Baxter is a one-woman-man, and it is clear from the kind, friendly letters Evelyn sends that she is exactly what he’s looking for. The problem is she thinks she’s corresponding with someone else! When he tries to clear up the unintentional deception, will Evie give his poor smitten heart a chance?
Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer encourages others to live free to flourish. She shares her message speaking at womens events, and it permeates her written work. Paula has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets and has a devotional book series, Soul Scents.Her first published novella,Youre a Charmer Mr. Grinch, was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. Her most recent publication, At Home with Daffodils, is included in Barbours A Bouquet of Brides collection which releases January of 2018. Paula served as ACFW Colorado coordinator and was on the founding board of the first local ACFW chapter in Colorado. Paula and her husband, Jerry, are adjusting to a sometimes-empty nest in Colorado. They treasure time with their growing family of adult children, spouses, and spouses-to-be. Paula loves peppermint ice cream, going barefoot, and adventuring with friends. Visit her at www.paulamoldenhauer.com