Those who experienced WWII tell their stories to younger generations

Posted March 8, 2023

Circle Logo

The “Living History” lesson at South High School is in its 11th year.

Author: Katie Eastman

Published: 5:05 PM MST March 2, 2023

Updated: 5:05 PM MST March 2, 2023

DENVER — For 11 years, students have filed into the Denver South High School auditorium to learn the history of wars from people who experienced them – a tradition of “living history” that continued on Thursday.

“I left in December of ’43,” said Walter Ordelheide, who served in the Navy’s medical corps during World War II. He was supposed to graduate from South High School that year, but the school allowed him to graduate early. 

Sitting near him on the stage Thursday at South High School was Elaine Westblade, who also graduated from South. She met her husband there. He was drafted during WWII.

“It affected everybody whether you were in the battle or whether you were home,” Ordelheide said.

Westblade stayed home, while her then fiancé, Maynard, went to fight in Germany and France. She said she remembers a time where people had to make a little go a long way.

“Butter was rationed, sugar was rationed, meat was rationed,” she said. 

She could only get one pair of shoes a year, and she missed her favorite food.

“For instance you couldn’t buy Jell-O, and I really like Jell-O,” she said.  “But you could get gelatin, so that was just plain, and I used that and put Kool-Aid with it to flavor it, and it worked.”

Despite the little they had, she said she remembers the feeling of community and helping one another.

Ordelheide said he looks back at the war and sees a warning for the future. 

“I hope we never get started in a war with Russia and China because it will be the end of this world,” he said.

Westblade said she sees history repeating itself in Ukraine. 

“It’s just a power struggle where they want to be in charge,” she said. 

They speak now while they still can.

“It’s an obligation to share our feelings about the wars,” Ordelheide said. 

Ordelheide and Westblade both live at Clermont Park Retirement Community in Denver.