We left our church family in late January of 1941, cheered by our Methodist basketball team being first half champions of the church basketball league, yet tempered by the sight of 47 young men of Girard leaving for Camp Shelby in Mississippi, the unlucky ones whose numbers were called for the first wave of draftees into the army. Our country was not at war – yet – but the entire continent of Europe and the British Isles, northern Africa, China and Japan and most of the Pacific countries were engulfed in a huge world war. The people of our country were divided in how to respond. Technically, the United States was neutral. But, graphic photos in their daily papers of war’s devastation, broadcasts from England during nightly bombings, and (remember, this is prior to TV) weekly newscasts seen in their local movie houses; these altogether produced one group who wanted the US to get involved. Because America is a land built by emigrants, many of our people had relatives who were living in war zones. However there was another group, just as large, who did not want to get involved in any way. They knew the horrors of war, and wanted to avoid it if at all possible. Still, to our government leaders, it seemed prudent to prepare for the worst, hence the draft of young men into the army begun in late 1940, and the beginning of construction of warships and planes. Looking back from our perch seventy-five years into the future, we know how we were catapulted into that war by the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, but folks in February, 1941 were definitely divided about the war around them. We have no way of knowing, but there were probably folks representing these different views in Girard, and even in our church family. Whatever was happening in our church seventy-five years ago, when our members left the building they walked into a world full of the sights and sounds of war, with our country practically the only oasis of peace.
In the month of January, I reported on our new preacher, Rev. Maly, using the Girard News column called “Church Notes” to announce an evening Sunday service and inviting those who attended churches who did not have an evening service at their church, to come to ours. Now, in February, in the “Church Notes” column, he announced that his Sunday morning, Feb. 2 morning worship sermon title would be “The Three Greatest Lines In The Bible”. His sermon for the evening service would touch on “Unfinished Business”.
Then, the next evening, the Girard Junior Chamber of Commerce met at our church, and Rev. Maly spoke to them on the subject, “Life’s Questions”, such as: What is Your Name? Where do you live? How old are you? These questions sound like they would only require simple answers, but, apparently he expanded them into an interesting and thought provoking talk.
The next Sunday, the 9th, his sermon title for the morning service was “The Fountain of Eternal Youth”. The evening service featured special music by the choir under director Frank Fuller and Rev. Maly’s sermon title was “Let Go and Let God”. The evening service of the following Sunday also featured special music, this time by the Girls’ Chorus, with a solo by Miss Edith Williams.
Some of you will recall that last month I noted that, in the sports section, the News reported our Methodist Team was “First Half Champions of the Church Basketball League.” We had beaten the Christian Team in the Church Basketball League play-off game 36 to 34. The sparkplug for the Methodists was Evans with 20 points. I speculated that “Evans” probably referred to Jack Evans. After reading the article, Ruth Streb e-mailed me to say that Jack Evans was known as a talented basketball player and the article probably was about him.
Now in February, the second series of the Church League games were being played. The Girard News edition of February 28th reported that “Bill Carson’s Methodist five beat St Rose’s cagers 43-25 Wednesday night. Schoenfield had 5 goals and 1 foul, Schlecht had 4 goals and 2 fouls, and Carson had 4 goals and 1 foul to lead the Methodist scoring.” This resulted in a tie for the title between St Rose and the Methodists. The article concluded with the announcement that there would be a playoff game between the two teams in March. As I noted last month, the Girard News Sports reporter never bothered with full names of players, only their last name. (Probably because he assumed that everyone in town knew who he was talking about, anyway) If any of you can come up with a first name for Schoenfield or Schlecht, just send an e-mail or call me, and I’ll put them in next month. I remember Bill Carson well, not for basketball but as an excellent golf coach, and the owner of a great driving range, where he struggled to teach me how to swing a club when I was in college.
On this happy basketball note we will leave our church family in February of 1941, 75 years ago in our church, our town and our country.
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