The first Sunday in January, the 5th, members of our Sunday School who had achieved perfect attendance for the past year were honored. Twelve members had perfect attendance for one year, seven for two years, four for four years, four for five years, two for six years, two for eight years, one for nine years, two for ten years, one for thirteen years and, finally, one for sixteen years. Many of our church’s older members have already guessed the name of the person with sixteen years perfect attendance back in 1941. It was Jack Powers who would finally retire from tallying perfect attendance when he had well over fifty years of them.
I always check Wikipedia for events that occurred during the month I am reporting on. The following event has a personal connection to me and, I hope, some other readers. “On January 6th, the keel of the Battleship Missouri was laid at the U S Navy Yard in Brooklyn.” I realize that no one from our church family or probably any family in Girard was aware of this event at the time. But we, looking back, know of this storied ship’s history and, some of us have been lucky enough to board her, and stand near the spot where the surrender of Japan occurred, ending World War II. Sometimes, you can read about history from books, but you suddenly can understand what the people must have felt when you can actually be at a place and see and feel what they must have felt. An example: When Clyde and I were just married we spent our honeymoon in New England. One of the things we did was to board the replica of the Mayflower at Plymouth harbor. Only then, when I was in it, did I suddenly realize just how little that ship was and how a long voyage in such cramped quarters would feel. Another example: Years later we visited Antietam and stood in the sunken road and looked out at the cornfield where the Union troops would be marching out, right in our gunsights. Despite reading of the battle and studying maps, only then did I really understand both the vulnerability of the Union troops in the beginning of the battle, and then the vulnerability of the Confederate troops after the sunken road had been flanked.
So, what is my personal connection to the Missouri? Back in 1991 Clyde’s Uncle Art mentioned that he had read that December 7th would mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which, as we all know, put us into World War II. He had been there when it happened, too old for the draft, but as a civilian electrician hired by the Navy. He thought he would like to go to the events which were planned. As he was approaching 90 at the time, Clyde and I, along with our son, Mark, offered to go with him. We arranged transportation, housing, and a rental car. Uncle Art got us tickets to all the events. President H W Bush and Colin Powell addressed us on the 7th, a Saturday. The next day, Sunday, was open to sight-seeing, and a suggested tour of the Battleship Missouri, at Pearl Harbor specifically in honor of this 50th anniversary celebration. We went – we saw – guided by young sailors we saw everything we were allowed to see. We took photos of us beneath the huge number 63. But mostly we stood in awe by the plaque that marked the signing of the surrender that ended World War II. Standing there, Clyde and I both had our own memories of that day in history. We were both still kids. Our memories were similar: The great happiness and jubilation – the incessant honking of car horns, each driver’s own attempt at joyful noise. I will always carry the memory of standing there on that great ship, reaching back to my youth and reliving that day. But, Missouri’s keel was laid on Jan. 6th, 1941 and no one in Girard thought or knew about it. The ship would be built over the next three years. She would be launched on Jan. 29th, 1944, christened by Miss Mary Margaret Truman, 19 year old daughter of Harry S Truman, senior Senator from the state of Missouri. At that time no one knew that her father would go on to become Vice-President the next year and would succeed to the Presidency at the death of Franklin Roosevelt. As President he would have to make the decision to use the Atomic Bomb to force Japan to surrender without an invasion. The Joint Chiefs at that time believed that invading Japan would have caused many thousands more deaths of our soldiers. Everyone was sick and tired of the costly, bloody war. Two bombs were dropped. And so, when Japan surrendered, we sent our largest and newest grand battleship, The Missouri, christened by the President’s daughter back in 1944 when he was just a Senator and she was just a college student, to host the signing ceremony at Tokyo Bay. The Missouri was the last large battleship built by our country. You can still board her today. She is in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She is a museum ship, and, if you go there, you, too, can stand by that plaque and feel the history.
Back to Girard history - On Tuesday evening, January 7th, Miss Edith Howells entertained members of the Methodist Sunday School Board at her home on East Broadway. F. K. Teeter, the Superintendent of the Sunday School, presided. Plans to purchase new songbooks were discussed and a committee was appointed to research the matter. A social hour followed the meeting.
The Friday, July 17th edition of the News under the heading “Church Notes” had the following: “Evening services at the Methodist Church have been resumed, and all those who do not have evening services at their own church are invited to come and worship. The service begins at 7:30 PM. Rev. Arthur Maly, Pastor, will speak on the subject “Frozen Assets”. There will also be special music.” (Looks like our new preacher was doing a little extra advertising. Hope he didn’t ruffle any other church’s feathers.) That Sunday, at morning worship, Rev. Maly preached on “Being Found Out”. Later at 3:30 in the afternoon, there was a piano recital at the church by Norma Clark and Carl Peterson. And, yes, the evening service sermon title was, indeed, “Frozen Assets”.
Next week’s News announced that the Sheet and Tube’s Men’s Chorus would sing at our church’s evening service at 7:30 PM. The Sheet and Tube Chorus was highly regarded for its excellent music, and apparently Rev. Maly was hoping it would attract new people to the evening service. Unfortunately we have no records of attendance at our church services from 75 years ago, so we will just have to wonder if the little advertising bits worked.
The sports section of the News also did a little advertising for our church in its own way with the following short article: “Methodists First Half Champions of Church Basketball League”. It went on to note that the Methodist Church had beaten the Christian Church in the playoff game 36 to 34. The article went on to state that Evans was the Methodist Sparkplug with 20 points. The News had (to me) a maddening habit of referring to players with only their last names, sometimes with initial but not in this case. My guess would be Jack Evans but that is only a guess.
The headline for the January 31st edition of the Girard News read as follows: “Girard Draftees to Start Training – 47 Girard Draftees left Thursday morning for the Cleveland Armory for final entrance exams before leaving for Camp Shelby, Mississippi”. On that sobering note we will leave our church family in 1941 – seventy-five years ago in our church, our town, and our country.