Alan Simon Books


The Great Depression years finally behind them, the entire Coleman family of Pittsburgh has been looking forward to this Christmas for almost the entire year.For the first time in more than a decade, Gerald and Irene Coleman have tucked away enough extra money to make up for all the lean years of disappointingly modest Christmas gifts for their children. But December 7, 1941 has changed everything, and for the past two weeks the entire family has followed with despair the Japanese advances all over the Pacific as well as America finally being dragged into the two-year old European war. Though a few glimmers of hope can be found amidst the ominous war news, both parents fear not only for the country’s fate as this new war begins but also, more personally, for the fate of their sons who will likely soon be joining the fighting in one war theater or another.

Still, despite the sense of dread hanging over almost every aspect of the family’s daily affairs, Irene Coleman is determined that if indeed this will be the last Christmas that the family spends together––at least until after the war, or perhaps even forever––then she will do everything in her power to make Christmas, 1941, the first Christmas of the war, a happy one for her children and her entire family.

Come spend the week leading up to Christmas, 1941 with the Coleman family:

Jonathan––The eldest son at nineteen, Jonathan fatalistically realizes the inevitability of his military days arriving very soon, whether he succumbs to the pressure to enlist or if he waits until he is drafted. But Jonathan has other problems on his mind as well.

His long-time girlfriend Francine Donner, whom only days from now he plans to ask to marry him, broke a date with him this past weekend to go out with Donnie Yablonski, one of Jonathan’s best friends from high school (and one of her own former boyfriends before Jonathan), because Donnie is headed off to boot camp right after Christmas. Jonathan has ominous feelings about this turn of events...and he’s right.

Joseph––At seventeen years old, Joseph has been acting like a walking recruiting poster ever since the Pearl Harbor attack, constantly talking about how he can’t wait to “join up and see action.” Spurred on by his cousin during a family post-church Sunday brunch, Joseph’s one-track behavior goes into overdrive in the days leading up to Christmas, causing increasing strife and contention with his more reticent older brother and with his parents.

Charlene––The third child in the family and the oldest daughter, Charlene has just become secretly engaged at the age of sixteen to her boyfriend who is soon headed to boot camp. She shares the news of her engagement with her cousin Lorraine Walker, but Lorraine quickly breaks her promise to keep the news secret. When Irene Coleman learns of her daughter’s engagement and the circumstances surrounding it, she has yet another problem to confront.

Thomas––With the new war and the family tensions involving his brothers and his older sister, plus a general feeling of uneasiness, fourteen-year old Thomas’ shift from childhood to his teenage years is becoming more and more unsettled each day. Throughout his childhood, he had looked forward to Christmas each year, even though his haul of toys was, like each of his siblings’, meager during the Depression years. This year, though, Thomas can’t wait until Christmas is over, feeling that any kind of holiday celebration is out of place given the times.

Ruth––Six-year old Ruth doesn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of what is occurring in the world and what has, in the past few weeks, hit every corner of American life. All she cares about is Christmas, and she is particularly upset that the promised family trip to downtown Pittsburgh for Christmas shopping and looking at the window displays is now more than a week overdue.

Gerald––The patriarch of the family, Gerald Coleman has never worked for anybody but himself, being able to hang on to his shoemaker shop––and his family’s house––during the Depression years. Now, however, spurred by the trials that his sons will soon face in the Army or Navy, he is considering going to work in one of the war plants springing up in Pittsburgh and all across America to “do his part for the war effort.”

Irene––In many ways, the backbone of the family...the classical 1930s-1940s matriarch who runs her household her way, no questions asked. Like her husband, Irene is mortified by the ominous war news and does her best to occupy the hours of her day with an endless string of tasks and chores, trying to keep her mind off her own fears for her sons’ safety.

December 20-26, 1941:

The First Christmas of the War



with all-new bonus material