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Manatee war bond story evokes memories


Charlotte Underwood held the photocopy of the article like it was an heirloom.

It was, in a way.

“Motherless Tots Save Pennies, Buy Bonds To Help Dad Win War,” read the Bradenton Herald headline over a photo of four Underwood siblings.

Elainor, 8, Donald, 5, and JoAnn, 6, stand shoulder-to-shoulder outside grandmother Donia Underwood’s home in Gillette.

Charlotte, 2, is in front.

The date: July 9, 1944.

The original article was lost years ago, but she recovered a copy recently from Manatee County’s Central Library.

“Looking at it used to make me sad,” said Underwood, 68. “But now it makes me proud my mother thought that much to teach her children to do this.”

Madeline Underwood was sick with tuberculosis, yet urged her children to buy a war bond and help the United States achieve victory in World War II.

Young men from Gillette, Rubonia and Terra Ceia had gone off to war.

Their father, Willis, a farm foreman, enlisted, too.

So, though their mother would die March 13, 1943, the children obeyed her wish.

They saved 1,875 pennies in two years and bought that war bond.

“People would come by to see how we were doing and we’d ask, ‘Money for war bonds?’” said Donald Underwood, 70, in Bradenton. “That was a lot of money back then.”

Times were hard, especially for four children being raised by a grandmother, who’d already raised 12 kids.

“I used to think it was bad my grandmother made our dresses out of flour sacks or chicken seed sacks,” Charlotte Underwood said. “Then I went my first two years at Palm View Elementary and I realized everyone had dresses made out of that material.”

Donia Underwood was a dynamic woman.

“I’d ask her, ‘Grandma, how’d you do that?’” Underwood said. “‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ she’d always say.”

Which could also describe four children buying a war bond.

Ask Willis Underwood, their 97-year-old father, who never did see combat.

“Come right down to it, they did more for the war effort than I did,” said the Terra Ceia resident.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification.