We left our church family in February, 1943, living with war news every day, watching their young men going off to serve, listening intently to the evening news on the radio or in the newsreels between the movies in the local theaters, while still going about their usual daily activities.
A large 32 county blackout was held on the evening of March 4th, a Thursday. This would have been more serious than the previous dimouts. Street lights would be off, traffic would be limited to essential only, whatever that was determined to be. No lights were permitted to be on in houses or offices, unless the windows were completely covered by heavy, black, light-blocking curtains. People were to remain in their homes for the duration of the blackout. Of course, anyone working in a factory producing something essential for defense could not stop for a practice blackout. Thus, all the steel mills along the Mahoning River were busily working 24 hours a day, with the glow of the molten steel and the lights of the mills the only light visible in the entire Mahoning Valley. Looking back, it seems silly to black out all the homes, etc. while leaving the very necessary mills producing steel fully exposed. However, people wanted to know what they should do if we were attacked, and these practices helped to put in place plans for dealing with that possibility. Stopping the production of steel was out of the question.
That same evening, apparently earlier, our Official Board held their regular monthly meeting. This must have been one of the shortest in our church history. Two items were considered. #1 – the Minister was given permission to purchase colored bulletins for Easter and, #2 – All bills due should be paid. And then they turned out the lights, and went home to prepare for and participate in the blackout.
On Friday, March 5th, Women’s Society of Christion Service Groups #1 and #5 met respectively at the homes of Mrs. Mildred Patterson, 49 Howard St., and Mrs. Reese Evans of Morris Lane.
On Sunday, March 7th, we have from our archives the report of the Sunday School. Attendance was 270. The collection from these scholars was $13.81. The weather was noted as “cold” and under Remarks, “Paul S. home on leave”. Next Sunday, the 14th, the weather was noted as “fair and warmer”, and the attendance was up, too, at 317. March 21st was also “fair and warmer” with attendance at 316. Under Remarks, “Alberta and Oscar have the measles.” The last Sunday in March was the 28th. The attendance was 332 with a collection of $20.66. The weather was reported as “Bright sun but cold. Spring is here!” Remarks – “Marjorie’s got the measles.”
On March 4th, the 15th Annual Academy Awards ceremony was held in Los Angeles. Of course there was no TV then, but it was probably broadcast on the radio. Mrs. Miniver won the Best Picture Award. Girard had two movie theaters, the Wellman and the New Mock. Both were well attended. Movies were much cheaper then and probably attended by a higher percentage of the population than today because there was no competing way to experience movies at that time. You generally watched a double feature with a newsreel and a cartoon in between. What would have been in the newsreel during March of 1932? Probably footage from the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, which had occurred on March 2nd and had a lot of both movie and still footage. In this battle of the South Pacific, both US and Australian forces sank numerous Japanese convoy ships. It was good news and it probably helped to keep up the morale of our families at home worrying about our boys at war. Unfortunately, also in March occurred two very bad convoy attacks in the North Atlantic of our ships by German U-boats. The early one on March 9th and 10th sank 7 of our ships. Later, on March 16th through the 19th, 22 US ships were lost in the largest North Atlantic “wolfpack” attack of the war. Bad news like that was often held back from public knowledge. These attacks most likely would not have been shown in the newsreel between movies at the Wellman or the New Mock.
On a happy note, and probably completely unnoticed by anyone in Girard, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma opened on Broadway in New York City on March 31, 1943, beginning a run of 2,212 performances which would not end until May 29th in 1948, a record-setter at that time.
So, with that small ray of sunshine, we will end our Glance back at the month of March, 1943 – our church family, our town, and our country 75 years ago.
We left our church family at the end of January, 1943, practicing the City of Girard’s first blackout or dimout as it was called, because street lights and signal lights at intersections were left on, and essential driving was permitted. Houses, however, had to be dark. The first issue of The Girard News in February – Friday, the 5th – pronounced the first dimout to be a success, along with a second one held Tuesday evening, February 2nd. A real blackout would be scheduled later. The News also reported that the first Tin Can collection would be held February 8th. I remember tin can collections vividly. They, along with regular other scrap metal collections, would become a routine part of our lives right through the end of the war. Most of us at the time had small hand-held can openers. You pressed down on the top of the can hard with the pointy part of the cutting edge so that it cut through the metal. Then, using the top edge of the can as a fulcrum, you worked the opener up and down like a lever, gradually cutting and working your way around the top until you reached your original opening, freeing the lid. After pouring the contents of the can into your pan or whatever, you had to rinse out the can, and then turn it upside down, to repeat the process on the other end. After both ends were removed, the can was flattened by standing on it, and the ends were carefully slipped in between the flattened sides. The cans were put out once a week or so in a box or some kind of container for pickup. One reason I remember can collections in particular, is because of what happened to me because of a can collection. It was a warm, late spring Saturday afternoon, with dandelions blooming profusely in all the front yards. I was visiting my new friend, Mary Johnson. She lived on Lakewood Avenue, several blocks from my home, but not involving crossing a major street. It was probably the spring of 1945, when I had just turned 7. I wouldn’t have been allowed to travel that far from home if I had been younger. We were playing out in the sidewalk, with boxes of flattened tin cans by the curb in front of every home. Suddenly we noticed that one of the box’s cans had smooth lids that kept falling out of the flattened sides. We had never seen a can opener make as smooth lid like that. Neither had her older brother. Richard. He told his sister to pick a dandelion and hold it our wither one hand, without moving it, and he would bring the edge of the lid down upon the stem and see if it would cut it off. It did! She held out another one. It cut that one off smoothly, too. I held out one. Swoosh! Richard was a dkind, sweet boy, just a couple years older than us. He had stated that he wanted to be a priest when he grew up He patiently cut off every dandelion we brought to him. It was great fun. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh! And then, somehow, he misjudged, or maybe I moved, and suddenly the can cut right into my left thumb, missing the dandelion clenched in my fist. I felt it, looked at the blood pouring out and started bawling and running home, with Richard called after me, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt you.” When I go home, my mom bandaged the wound and it healed pretty quickly. But it left a smooth little scar, just at the base of my left thumbnail, to remind me in coming years, how I had learned about modern can openers. Later the Johnson’s would move from Lakewood Avenue, and out of my life I never did find out if Richard became a priest.
Back to February of 1943: On February 4th our Official Board held their regular monthly meeting a the church. It was pretty uneventful. Rev. Maly requested that the Secretary of the Board write a letter of thanks to Mr. Martin for his work in painting the Pastor’s office. After hearing and passing acceptance of routine reports, they adjourned. However, on February 18th they called a special meeting to take care of important business. You may remember that Mr. Blossom had replaced Mr. Crum as Janitor, beginning January 1st. Now, at this special meeting, the Janitor’s Committee was recommending that Mr. Crum be rehired beginning March 1st, and that Mr. Blossom only continue work through the month of February. And we have no idea what caused this change. Did Mr. Blossom want to leave the job? Was he drafted and had to leave? Probably no one among us knows the answer. The Official Board passed the Janitor Committee’s resolution and the meeting was adjourned.
On a much happier note, Pearl Marie Sayers and Pvt. Lynn Miller were married at the Methodist Parsonage on Monday, February 8th by Rev. Maly.
On Wednesday evening, the 17th, the Friendly Class held their 8th Anniversary Party dinner at the church – 82 members and guests. One of the special guests was Rev. Charles Stoneburner of Cleveland. Rev. Stoneburner had been Pastor at our church when the Friendly Class was organized. And on a Friday evening, the 26th of February, the Wesleyan Class met at the home of Mrs. E.O. Hood of E. Prospect St. with Mrs. I. R. Howells as co-hostess. The Girard News issue of the last Friday of February, 1943, announced that the big 32 County wide Blackout was set for Thursday, March 4th.
And with that, we will leave our church family, our little town, and our country – living day to day with war news still mostly bad, watching young men going away to serve, many of them, like Lynn Miller and his new wife Pearl, trusting in God and their love for each other, making lifetime commitments before they parted.
The month of February, 1943 – 75 years ago in the history of our church family.
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