We left our Church Family back in April of 1944, looking forward to the coming summer, but preparing for a possible outbreak of rabies and also an increased risk of polio, or infantile paralysis as it was often called then.
Much of the material for this blog comes from The Girard News, our town’s weekly newspaper, published every Friday. It was very popular, even up through the 60’s when we first moved to Girard. Many young people had Girard News routes. As a Girl Scout Leader in the 70’s, I often sent the paper photos and stories of our girls’ activities. Our church also contributed stories about church activities. Often the News has more information about our church activities then our church archives have.
Last month I reported that Girard had failed miserably in its goal of raising $17,000 for War Bond Sales. The initial amount raised was only $9,284. After extending the drive for an extra week, the amount raised grew to $13,111, a more respectable figure, but still almost $4,000 short. Now, on May 5th, the News announced that, after receiving the donations of Girard workers in out-of-town mills, Girard had actually exceeded the $17,000 goal. Way To Go, Girard!
Now, however, in the May 19th edition of the News, came the announcement that a new War Bond Sale would be conducted beginning June 12th, with a goal of $600,000 for the entire Mahoning Valley area. It is hard for us in 2019 to look back 75 years ago and marvel at how our country was able to build up a huge army and navy so quickly after being surprised at Pearl Harbor. By May of 1944, a mere 2 ½ years after December 7th, 1941, “a date that would live in infamy”, our navy was dominating both the German navy and the Japanese navy. Our planes were ruling the skies over both countries. And we were preparing to invade Germany occupied Europe with the largest sea invasion ever attempted in the history of the world. Everyone knew the invasion would be coming soon, as thousands of American Soldiers were already in England, and more were on the way. All this was possible because of our huge industrial complex, working 24/7, and the purchase of war bonds by virtually every citizen. And, of course, there was the rationing of everything from tires to meat to provide food and equipment for our fighting men and women. Thus, almost all of the news about our church folks back in 1944, was dominated by the war.
At the end of May, Girard High Seniors were looking forward to graduation. There were 110 of them in 1944. Most of the boys would probably be drafted sometime in the near future, or maybe they would enlist so that they could have some control over which branch of the military they would serve. They faced an uncertain future.
Memorial Day in 1944 came on May 31st, as it always did back then. No long weekend holidays – in 1944 it fell on a Thursday. So, on Thursday morning, May 31st, the parade formed up at 9:30 at the Girard Viaduct, where a wreath was dropped into the Mahoning to honor the Naval dead of Girard. Then, participants reformed in front of the City Building to march to Liberty Union Cemetery to honor the dead of other branches of the Services. There was a flag raising ceremony by the Boy Scouts, and a speaker, Rev. Paul Gerard, pastor of the Hubbard Presbyterian Church. Approximately 500 people took part in those weekday morning Memorial Day services.
Our Church Family and our Town in the month of May, 1944 – seventy-five years ago during World War II.
We left our church family back in March of 1944 looking forward to Easter which would occur on April 9th seventy-five years ago. Much of the information I can find about our church during those past years comes from The Girard News, a weekly paper published every Friday and available on microfilm at the Girard Free Library. On the last issue in March of ’44, on the 31st, the News indicated that the City of Girard had failed badly in raising its $17,000 for the latest War Bond Drive which concluded on the last day of March. Our town had only raised $9,284, just a little over half of the goal of $17,000. Peter Wellman, owner of Girard’s two movie theaters and a very active supporter of all of our town’s civic life, said that “The quota assigned to Girard was out of proportion to its population”. The deadline was extended one week, and the April 7th headline of the News proudly proclaimed that in the past week Girard people had raised almost $4,000 more and had a much better amount of $13,111 toward that still too high quota of $17,000.
April 7th was also Good Friday and the News gave each church in Girard as much space as needed to describe their Easter Sunday’s Services. Rev. Maly simply reproduced the entire order of worship from the Organ Prelude through the Postlude. I will share the highlights: The Choir Anthem was “Now Is Christ Risen From The Dead”. After the Responsive Reading followed several prayers including lighting of candles for each service man and woman. The Offeratory Solo was “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” sung by Blodwyn Evans. The Sermon was given by Rev, A. E. Maly and was untitled. A Reception of New Members followed the Sermon. Then the Benediction and a Seven-fold Amen by the Choir, and finally, the Postlude ended the Easter Service. Sunday School attendance was 399. Church attendance was probably similar. Then everyone went home to an Easter Dinner with family and/or friends. A & P Grocery Store offered whole ham at 38 cents a pound, 2 dozen eggs for 59 cents, and a Jane Parker Easter Cake for 53 cents. Many of those Easter Dinners had an empty chair where a service man or woman used to sit. Many Girard families were counting the number of Christmas and Easter Dinners with an empty chair, and hoping that this one would be the last.
You may remember that, back in November I reported that Girard High School students were beginning a bond drive of $75,000 to purchase a P-51 Mustang Fighter Plane for the War effort. Now in the April 14th edition, the News announced that the drive had been a huge success with the students coming in $45,000 over their goal. So there was now a P-51 Mustang named Girard High Indians to go along with the B-25 Mitchell Bomber named City of Girard flying . . . somewhere . . . in the world of war.
The April 21st edition of the News announced that the War Manpower Commission ordered a 48 hour work week effective May 1 for all companies employing 8 or more workers. That was a sobering order. All defense production had been working 24/7 from the very beginning of the war. Now everyone, except for a few mom and pop stores, would have to work a full 6 day week, or, perhaps five days with longer business hours, to provide the folks who were working so long and hard, a better chance to purchase food and other necessities. It is hard for us to comprehend, but, back in the day most stores closed at 5 PM, 6 at the latest.
Another difference in the lives of our Girard Church Family who lived through WWII – Recap Tires – Again, this is something we just cannot comprehend. Even new tires back in the years after the war, barely got ten thousand miles before they died. Re-treads, about the only kind of tire available to civilians, were notorious for delaminating or falling apart if they got too hot. Here is a Firestone Spring Savings Ad from that same April 21st edition of the News: “Factory-Controlled Recapping - $6.70 for a 16” tire – No Ration Certificate Required – The Firestone Factory-controlled method assures you highest quality materials and the finest workmanship by factory-trained experts. You get longer mileage, guaranteed satisfaction.” I don’t know how much satisfaction was guaranteed. My Dad, like most people, was thrilled to be finally able to purchase real new tires when they became available sometime after the end of the war.
Here is another difference in our lives today and the lives of our families back in 1944. The April 28th issue of the News featured announcement from the Girard Board of Health. Seeking to stop a possible Rabies Epidemic in the coming summer months, they would shoot and/or impound all stray dogs . That sounds pretty drastic. But, it was the only way they could deal with it back then. Now, with all pet dogs receiving rabies vaccinations, practically our only acquaintance with the disease is through contact with wildlife such as raccoons. But there were no rabies vaccinations available back in ’44. Rabies epidemics were real and frightening. They always seemed to occur in the summer. Another disease that seemed to occur most often in summer was polio. In 1944 there was no preventive vaccine for polio. The President of the United States was in a wheelchair because of it. It would not be until the 60’s that we would all line up to get our dose of the vaccine. We tend to forget about diseases like polio and rabies when we go to classic car or boat shows, and look back to what, to us, seem like simpler times. They weren’t.
So, with summer weather just around the corner, we will leave our church family back in April of 1944 – still deeply enmeshed in World War II – Seventy-five years ago in our church and in our town.
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